Monday, January 20, 2020

Another Volunteer Week Finished

It's been a busy week, but all the families who were staying at our church have now moved on to the next church where they will stay for a week. I cannot imagine how difficult that is, especially for the kids, getting used to a new group of people around them every single week.

This week's volunteering, while intensive, involved less time than the previous visits. I'm working on not being "needed" at least for my physical presence, as much as in the past. This week I opened the doors at five thirty for the cooks, left a little after six when their support people came, and was usually at home by six fifteen or so. After sharing my number and reminding everyone that I could easily be texted and that I  lived seven minutes away if all the lights were red! In addition to feeding the families and eating and chatting with them we also help them do laundry, get showers and act as a general resource as needed.

So while I was committed to an hour per evening and a couple on Saturday, it was not the five to eight or nine pm every night that I was doing when we began this program. Even though of course there is still the scheduling, arranging coverage and manpower and making sure there are no duplicate meals,  and being on call as needed. Our next  duty is not for a couple months. One of the reason I love this particular thing we do (as well as my part in it) is that it's intensive but brief, leaving space for other things in between.

As my Sunday recovery, I unfortunately missed church, chilled and watched football for much of the day, and made a gigantic pot of beef vegetable soup-made with so called stew meet that was almost minute in size. I guess that's what I get for buying the stuff that was one day ahead of the expiration date, which is always an experiment. We didn't actually eat the soup last night, we cheated and got pizza with football. Instead there is correspondingly gigantic Tupperware container of the soup. After I go to work out, I will grab freezer bags at the grocery, along with some tomato past to add body and some kind of bread and freeze in said Ziploc bags while saving enough for tonight and maybe tomorrow.  There is no recipe for this one, it's just stew beef, corn, beans, peas, carrots, onion and celery-along with vegetable broth, seasonings, V8, and I might add a little wine to tonight's reheat.

Today I'm actively sewing some sand dunes...glittery sand dunes.....onto that landscape quilt, while looking online for templates for things I want to add to the top-a starfish, pink shells, maybe even a tail of a fish coming out of the water. Or maybe I'll just free hand it all and see what happens.

This weekend I was involved in two retirement discussions online. The first chat was in response to a newly retired empty nester type who was wondering what she and her husband could do to avoid the boredom and enjoy each other's company without spending much money (one of them was still working). On that one I could write a book with a fair amount of ease, so I contributed a bit here and there.

The second discussion was in a frugal group, where the question was how my age has affected my frugality.  While I was never the intensive can my own food, garden, do my own home improvements, change the oil type of person, in general I was willing to spend time over money for a long period in retirement.  I still do to a large extent. But as I slowly move towards sixty nine, I realize that my so called money saving methods tend more and more every year to simply not buying things or getting things for less, rather than using labor (or time).  I'm also realizing that I'm willing to sacrifice some of that money for less time and labor expended on my part.

That includes getting my yard shoveled, paying the fee for grocery delivery, eating out when the cooking sprite is not calling to me on occasion, and just plain expending less physical effort, energy, and time on some things that I used to. I have entered that time of life.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Being Sustainable-And Perhaps Saving Money?

One of those big goals around here for 2020 was to tighten the budget so that there would be even more money for travel and a future long distance move. An unstated or unadded goal until now was to increase my sustainability level-mainly when it comes to the amount of trash and waste I produce, but in other areas as well. I know I need to step up my game, especially as I see more wildfires and melting ice reports on a daily basis (just to begin with)!

Surprise, surprise, for the most part cutting money and cutting waste go together. At least with my math.

Note: I care about the planet and believe in global warming and climate change issues. That should not surprise a single reader. I also feel pretty strongly that much of the solution for these changes need to come from governments and from private industry both of whom have the money, the brain power and the tools to experiment and make changes. But I also feel like even small individual changes matter when added together......

Some parts of my frugal lifestyle are automatically sustainable (hello cloth napkins), but as I tweak the budget, as well as thinking of other changes I can make, these are the things I am doing in the new year to both lower the bottom line and/or help the planet.

There are some things I already do that save money as well being environmentally friendly.  I gave up paper napkins for cloth long ago. I consolidate errands as a matter of habit, and live in an inner suburb where driving for needs can be done close to my home. I wash most things in cold water, and use full loads. I use absolutely no chemicals in my yard including round up. Instead we use solutions like boiling water for weeds and putting down quick oats to get rid of ants. We use energy efficient bulbs and do not drink bottles water (we keep a few gallons on hand for emergencies).

So here is the new year, new list:

1. With a few allowable exceptions, I'm going to be focusing on a buy used first policy as much as possible. Certain clothing items, quilting fabric and yarn and foodstuffs will obviously not be in that category. I'm not saying I'll never buy new, just that it will be my last resort if I cannot find it through the marketplace, at a thrift shop or through my Buy Nothing Group! I'm sure there will be a few or more never used items added to the exception pile.

2.  As I declutter and downsize some more while I Iook forward  to  moving even smaller in the next year, I am committed to seeing if I can find alternatives for everything that is leaving my house, rather than just hauling i to a thrift store. Can I re-use it as a rag? Can I make something out of it? Can I give it away to someone who is looking for what I might have through my Buy Nothing Group or elsewhere? The landfill or the pile of bins behind Goodwill will be my last resort. And contributing to my buy nothing group makes me more comfortable with the asking, of course!

3. Wasted food in landfills is a large cause of pollution and wasted food is bad on my food budget-especially as I have set a general goal of keeping expenses to seventy dollars a week this year. So I've invested in some storage containers and have made a plan so that leftovers will not be just thrown in a container, but rather into one of those Tupperware divided dish things so anyone who wants can see them for lunch and for dinner. We cannot compost as we live near an area that is being dug up for a new housing subdivision and we would be inundated by the de-homed pests. 

from crate and barrel

4. I want a clothes rack and got an extra laundry basket and am committed putting as much as possible into the non-dry load. I feel the need to dry underwear, flannel sleepwear, jeans and sheets and towels. Other than that, hanging things up makes my clothing last longer and uses much less electricity.  

5. I want to look intensively look at other areas that I can cut out "disposable items". Can I make re-usable paper towels (we will always need some paper for dog gak and such)? I have a pattern and am about to make makeup remover squares out of flannel, so that I can stop buying cotton balls or squares,  And my one worst weakness, I am a body and facial wipe girl. I want to get rid of this habit of throwing multiple wipes into the landfill daily, whether I end up using the flannel squares, making my own version of a facial wipe that goes with a spray, or starting to use traditional cleanser in the bathroom! I can also make fabric gift bags instead of buying wrapping paper if I start early and go big. I already have mainly given up straws and coffee cups, but it's time to take a big step forward in this direction.

In the interests of honestly and reality, there are other things that I am either unwilling to do, cannot do, or am not sure how to do:

1. I'm a carnivore,  I love meat and I am always going to, although I attempt to limit beef to a night a week. For my pocket book as well s the planet, because I am always more liable to get steak or short ribs, rather than hamburger.

2. I am naturally cold blooded and and such keep my home at 73 in the winter although in my defense I keep the summer temps closer to 78. Our house is very well insulated but the numbers definitely go up at this time of year.

3.  As a road tripper (who also gets claustrophobia when she flies), the travel thing is a conundrum-even when figuring cost effectiveness, but mainly in terms of the environment. Driving cross country alone or with one other person, train travel, flying. How does one even compare the three options (and is there another). How does one choose, and how can I make a cross country drive both cheaper and more environmentally sound?

4. Like many of you, our  trash removal company requires bags. And I have dogs, so I have plastic bags. I have yet to find another solution for either.

5. I don't limit water use like I should. We have a water hungry lawn for part of the year. I definitely do NOT come from the navy shower school of thought, although I live in an extremely dry, you never sweat, Colorado climate where daily showering is the exception rather than the rule.

And there you have it, the goals, the plans, the good and the in between both finance and planet wise. Where are you on this spectrum. Where would you like to be? What would you add, what would you take away?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Feast or Famine - This Week In Retirement

One of the main things I like about retirement is that days (and weeks and months) can be entirely different.

I was not exactly a slouch last week as such, but there were minimal social outings, more at home time, some medical tests and much football watching and munching. Heck, I manged to get most of the Christmas decor down (although some needs to be boxed up), and to almost completely clean out and re-organizing that sewing room office (at least for the first round of organizing). 

This week, things are a little different. For one thing it's my "the homeless families are sleeping in the church" week, so I need to be at the church for at least a few hours each evening. For another, the social quotient was also pumped up this week, making for many more out of the house days, some with two or even three things planned. Feast or famine people, feast or famine!

I have to admit, I did stay home yesterday until time to head to the church, which is just seven minutes away. I also managed to head home quickly once I was sure all the volunteers were comfortable, so that I could watch the football game. I did get some good nesting and reading time in yesterday. I also did a full hour of in home exercise with my good friend U-tube.

Starting today however, things perked up just a bit. This morning I went pottery painting with friends, at one of those studios where they have glass fusing and painting and pottery. I was not as inspired as I should have been and settled on an Easter tile I can put on my mantle. I decided to forgo lunch with the others, will wonders ever cease, so that I could come home and stare at my landscape quilt for awhile before throwing it under the sewing machine and going wild.

Tomorrow I have breakfast/coffee with the gals, where i will most likely just be having coffee or hot chocolate, since last week I sprung for a forty dollar ticket to go paint wine glasses and sip in a winery! I'll probably be a good girl and forgo knitting midday so that I can get on the cross trainer for half an hour and then come home and cuddle with the dogs and a book before heading to said winery (someone is covering for me at church). 

Thursday I have our normal happy hour, and Friday I am meeting friends, but both days will be free until late afternoon or early evening so that I have my sewing and craft and reading time, and maybe even time to take a nap (when I probably should be working out).

Friday, January 10, 2020

Frugal Friday

After a year of being on a Medicare Advantage plan, I've jumped back into my retiree plan. I'll talk more about it later but my retiree plan means no out of pocket costs with Medicare, medicare off set fees of $800 and an extremely low cost brand name prescription plan. Unfortunately I lose two current bennies. The first is the ability to order 70 dollars of over the counter items for free very quarter (a minor inconvenience) and the second is a loss of silver sneakers. This probably counts as non frugal on Frugal Friday, but I have at least 25 workouts on U-tube to use. and $3.50 a visit to my rec center three times a week is a small price to pay for my health.

Fortunately this has been pretty low spend weekend around here, and here are a few of the frugal/non spend things happening this week:

1.  I did a two weeks worth (mainly) grocery order and had it delivered. On the surface this may not seem frugal because I need to pay a tip, but I only got things on my list this way, and the guy brought it all the way into the house. Unfortunately this particular order was from Walmart who uses plastic bags and so I ruined my sustainability goal of the week. I will return them for recycling.

2.  I've been really conservative on the entertainment front this week. On Tuesday I met friends for craft and chat at Whole Foods and had nothing but tea, I bought a single hot chocolate for knitting on Wednesday and last night at happy hour (which we do from three to five these days because of the darkness) I had a drink but no food or bar snacks since I knew I was having shepherd's pie for dinner at home. Good for my budget and my health I suppose. Tonight I have a once a month happy hour where I will spend ten dollars to get lobster stuff deviled eggs. Because lobster. And deviled eggs. Next week I have a lunch which will up the entertainment quotient a bit in terms of the budget, along with a possible $5 Tuesday movie date to see 1915.

3. I did not hit a single thrift shop, either on the weekly fifty percent off day or the weekly senior fifty percent off day. I wanted to but I held firm, firm I say

4.  I made a master list of both yarn and fabric and supplies I want to use up, as well as those to buy on sale. This is prime sitting in front of the TV or in the chair and crafting weather, and although I need supplies to do that I want  to limit what I buy and keep and eye on the cost of said items.

5.  We've eaten frugally at home this week: Oven baked ranch chicken pork chops, an oven casserole version of chicken Caccciatori with tomatoes/mushrooms/olives/peppers, homemade minestrone with small meatballs and the afore mentioned shepherd's pie. All mainly from stuff I purchased on sale or clearance at the grocer's (the pork chops were marked down to a dollar for four each).

This is the pork chop recipe I use. It's actually a slow cooker recipe but I used it to cover the chops in the oven and used two cans of soup and two packets of ranch. Not to be a judgemental type, but yes, it needs to be the Progresso soup,  so you don't have to add liqued and the Progresso soup has seasonings added.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Clear Bill

Thank you, everyone, for your food suggestions. I made a note about many options. A few would not work because they weren't compatible with sitting a a chair with my beverage until I wake up and a couple would work if I added some carbs. Cereal is simply not my thing, it wasn't when I was six, I don't think. At least cold cereal. I got stuff to make mini omelets in muffin pans, and peanut butter to throw on my whole wheat bread, so that's a start of sorts.

In the past week it's been test time around here. Not the written kind, but the overdue medical type that should have been done around my birthday and got shoved aside for wedding and graduation issues.

So I finally managed to have an over all skin exam, a 3D mammogram, a thyroid scan of my goiter/nodules, an abdominal scan to check for a hernia and an trans vaginal scan (because I have a  family history of ovarian cancer and a personal history of fibroids and cysts.). 

A three hour frend this past week!

All the running around and the fun poking and prodding is now over. All the tests are in and you can call me clear for another year.  I may complain about the moderate co-pays, the mild discomfort and the scheduling issue, but I am always happy that they are done and for the peace of mind in that area . Admittedly,  at some point I need to get another cologuard test or a colonoscopy, and I should probably check out what the heck the guidelines these days are for pap smears for post menopausal women. And obviously I need my blood work done every six months.

Lord knows, this doesn't mean I am in perfect health.  I'm way overweight and that has been exacerbated by not walking for almost six weeks due to what we now believe was both an arthritis flare up AND a sprain of some kind. I'm still not back to exercising the way I was before my ankle injury. I still have type two, although it's well managed at a point just below six on the scale right now. I really need to increase my intake of fiber, fruits and vegetables and whole grains even if they increase my carb load a bit. And at some point I need to do the shingles thing-I've had the old, first shot and I now need to get the two for one hit-eventually. Trying to keep healthy in retirement is an ongoing thing, after all. And always more money wise in the long run than the opposite. 

If my walk today does not go well the doctor will put me back to chair exercise, so I'm crossing my fingers!

But I've checked off all most of those annual boxes, and one possible concern (pain that could have been a hernia) for another year. So Onward and Forward!

All of a sudden it's Wednesday, and I haven't seen my knitting pals for a few weeks. What with Christmas and New Year's Day being on Wednesday and all, it's been closer to a month and I'm ready to jump back in.  I did have a craft and chat with my gals group yesterday and a rousing discussion was had on all the options I had for neck warmers or a scarf with the piece of yarn I've begun working on, so I'll decide as I go, and try and get at least an hour or so of sitting and knitting and chatting again this afternoon!

First though, I'm off to try and mall walk a bit, and get a few needed items including a couple phone cords. It seems that even those long heavy, twisted like cords give up the ghost eventually. In this case, all at once, since I bought them all at once!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Making it Monday-Starting Something New and Picking Up A "UFO"

I'm working on a problem around here. I am VERY hungry as soon as I wake up-but I am still a slow mover and not ready to cook anything. 

Thank you everyone, for all the suggestions so far. I am taking them all into account. along with some my daughter suggested such as making my own healthy quiche and grabbing a piece each day for a week. I love my readers!!

Just to be clear for the happy morning people..I'm talking about waking up at eight and being starving but lucky to walk upright from the bed to the chair by the window. So I need something I can literally grab and take with me as I blindly walk to the chair until I fully wake an hour later.

Yogurt as such is not my thing (although I am trying to will myself in that direction, so today I picked up chocolate hazelnut yogurt), and cooking eggs or oatmeal requires more time and effort than I have that first hour and a half of the day. So I've decided to accept the fact that much of my carb allowance is going to be in the morning: coffee cake, breakfast cookies, and muffins with juice and the occasional hard boiled egg thrown in. It is what it is.

Update: my brilliant daughter who wants me to have no sugar in the am but my daily coke gave me a recipe for mini omelets made ahead in muffin tinsel that I could even eat cold. Adding these to my idea list.

In my effort to use up some of my small batches of yarn I pulled the yarn below out from a bin this weekend.  Since I have absolutely no idea what it will end up as, I just cast on some stitches and started a basic knit stitch. Much of what I wear is pink, lavender or purple, and blue so this will match perfectly if I decide to keep it for myself. If it's a scarf, I'll add fringe or a large pompom, but since I've been wanted to make various neck warmers for others, this may be my trial version with decorator buttons and sew on snaps. I'm actually wondering if I made some for charity and sewed up the two sides if the people who got them could then pull it over their heads or not.  Experimentation is the key, I suppose!  

One of the new skills I want to learn this year is how to make advanced landscape quilts. You may remember I started a very beginner, never did one before, project  earlier in the year that was a beach scene. That poor mini quilt got set aside with fall and Christmas crafting. Today I pulled it out again, and started cutting and tearing fabric to build on top of it. Aside for all the quilting and thread painting I want to do, I want to layer sand dunes and a sunset and embroider or sew on star fish. This and sorting my daughter's T-shirt quilt squares should be my primary sewing projects for the next couple of weeks. Or more, since it may take me many tries and fails at arranging the fabrics they way I want them.
I want to add dunes, strips of sunset on the top, a fence, starfish, maybe shells, maybe a bird. It could take me awhile! It definitely needs my iron before I go any further though.

I did do a search of my fabric stash and I have nothing (seriously, not a one) when it comes to Easter/Spring/Valentines fabrics so I'll be allotting a little bit of money to get those. I'd like make three or four table runner and napkin sets as samples for people to see on my Facebook page.

I'd planned a new to me slow cooker pork chop recipe this evening, but then I looked in the fridge. There's leftover meatloaf, leftover meatballs and sauce and pasta and leftover Chinese food from our order in last night while we watched part of the Emmys. So no cooking for me tonight.......

I did get four, count em four bags of stuff off to goodwill (where there was a VERY large post Christmas/New Year Resolution drop off line) this morning, so at least one thing was accomplished. 

This afternoon and evening I have nothing planned of any consequence other than doing some exercise and working on the annual calendar planning wise so I can carve out travel dates, move dates and the like........

And maybe some knitting. I started The Irishman and watched an hour. I suppose I should finish it.....................

Friday, January 3, 2020

Frugal Friday-A New Budget for The New Year

This morning I was kicking myself!

 I've decided that I'm on a no new clothing plan for the rest of the winter with a couple exceptions. I'm allowing myself a couple pastel sweaters because I am VERY low on sweaters in decent condition (as in not around the house stuff).  So for the last week or so, Macy's has had a big sale on sweaters and two of them, including the one below were just at $17 each. Being me, I assumed it was an end of season sale and it might go lower, so I left it in the bag. Today, said sweater was back to $49.00.  That'll teach me!  In fact I desperately need a couple sweaters so I will probably get it if it does not go down.  But darn!!!! 

In other news, it's revamp the budget time again,  and this year (especially for the first six months) it's definitely a tightening of the tape measure plan. After some deep thought, I returned to my federal retirement insurance high option plan, and dropped my no fee Medical Advantage plan, increasing my outgo by $200.  I'll write about this in the next few weeks in a separate post, sharing my thinking and research.

In addition, for the next five months, I'll be helping my son with his rent (he pays a half of a share based on the amount of time he is here and the handyman type stuff he does around the house). I do this consciously and willingly. He has decided that he will remain here even if I go, and also where he wants to live, so I do this to enable him to save every teeny penny towards the cost of a down payment, pet deposit/rent, and all the furniture and household stuff he will need to acquire.

I also need to be putting money aside for myself. While I'll probably be with my daughter for a couple months late next fall as I begin looking at where to live (and saving because she wont let me pay for anything except perhaps some restaurant outings), I will not be taking  much of the furniture that I have here, and so will need new living room furniture and a new bed and matres and box spring at a minimum (I am happy to scavenge sales and thrift stores and online offerings for much of the rest).

So yes, the budget, it has changed:

1. My fixed expenses-both rents, my share of cable/rent insurance/gas/electric/water, car insurance (after comparison shopping), and my phone now top out at right around $1400 (health insurance comes out of my pension and social security before I budget). Without my son's share it is closer to $1100,  and obviously dependent on season and other things. Since I am naturally cold blooded, that electric and heat is higher in the winter than in the summer when I can live with an air conditioner average of about 77 degrees with ease. While my temporary assistance to my son is upping the average, I am reminding myself that a two bedroom apartment without my sister will run somewhere in the $1200 range in Texas so this is probably good training even though other costs like utilities will be much lower.

2. This leaves me at right around $1200 (possibly more) for everything else (If I've done the math with the SS increase vs Medicare increase correctly). This includes some debt (small parent student loan debt, car repair loan, etc), savings, and all unfixed expenses including groceries, personal care, entertainment, clothing and other stuff including minor medical co pays. I got the high option insurance to avoid the co pays.

3. My goal is to get back to $70 a week for groceries. This includes dinners for two or three four to five times a week, lunches, and breakfast for two (plus the wine). I could possibly do this for less and eat well, but I want to cut down the eating out while I'm at it. See below.

4. I'm cutting down the dining out and entertainment until late spring-both for my waistline/health and for the savings. While I'm still doing happy hour every Thursday (where I tend to have just a drink and avoid dinner (because I have it at home) and bar food, I have cut down the lunches in my gals group (because I'm the organizer and I can do that) an added more things like a craft and chat, a five dollar movie afternoon, and the like. And it seems I'm not the only one in the group that appreciates the budget cuts. I'm not a winter sports person and don't like to drive in the dark in the cold weather so this is not nearly as painful for me in January and February in Colorado as it would be during the summer.

5. My goal isto do a month by month budget between now and the first of June, planning for Valentines, birthdays, special occasions and everything else I can think of, and then put all the unplanned money into a separate checking account I can access as needed (since much of this money will be used by the end of 2020).  Monthly that will always include the above grocery money, gas expenses, haircut and pedicure (a medical expense in my case), monthly specific expenses, and whatever amount I've allowed for entertainment. I won't shoot myself if I use the other money, but having it in a different account (with a different attached card) will make it conscious and more thoughtful...........or so I tell myself.

6. I am allowing myself some extra spending in the first couple of months. This is for fabric and yarn supplies. Some will be used simply to keep me busy during the nights when it's dark out and the TV is my friend, and the rest will be used to purchase supplies to sew things to sell through re-opened my Facebook page (which will be called Frivolous Necessities). I plan to concentrate on memento sewing (T-shirt quilts and things sewn from wedding dresses other things) and  mainly sustainable and decorative products made nicely (fabric napkins, cloth paper towels, tote bags, table runners). I'll be making what I like and selling them. No custom work this time. Sew where I want, what I want, when I want.

And there you have it. Feel free to tell me if you think there's something I did not address in  these general budget guidelines for the first half of 2020. I'm happy to share specific numbers and answer questions in the comments and will probably let you all know how this is working and how much I spent in the notes, but I figured this post was long enough!!!!!!!!

Happy Weekend, all!