Week 92: The Cost of Gluttony

I spent a part of this weekend organizing my art supplies.  Because I cycle through hobbies, it’s easy to forget what I have and where it is located.  I knew where my watercolors were – so I took them out, inventoried them, and then went online to replace some old colors and pick up some new.  Ten new colors.

The next step of the inventory control was to go rummage through things like portfolios, art totes for on site work, and   . . .  that’s when I found more tubes of paint, including usable, duplicate tubes of what I had just purchased.

And that’s when the light bulb really went off.

It is so easy to just pick up this or that, one little thing, a tube of paint, a ball of yarn, a book, a T-shirt.  So, so easy.  And then, before you know it, you have a garage full of stuff that you aren’t using and probably don’t have enough time in your life to ever use up.  I wonder how much I have spent on this or that little thing a million times.

Hoarding?  I wonder. To me, a hoarder can never throw anything out.  We do throw things out.  I think we need to start throwing things out or donating them again.  My mother once said, “You don’t own a house – it owns you.”  The same may be said of possessions.  Maybe they do possess you!  That sounds pretty creepy.  

Decision-making is not a quick process when it comes to what to keep, what to get rid of.  It is far easier to make an impulse purchase.  I think I need to refocus on the cleaning up of my life as far as material goods.  I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how many of this and that I have, but I will start thinking very carefully about what I want to keep and get rid of.  However, a big decision is how I want to get rid of some things.

Ebay?  Garage sale?  Goodwill?  That is actually the hardest decision of all to make.  Ebay requires a bit of work – ongoing work.  A garage sale needs organization and advertisement.  Goodwill means stacking up the truck and driving down the road a few miles.

Help!  We’re drowning in too much stuff!


Week 93: Medical Care & Costs

Medical care is important for all of us, and luckily both Mr. 182 and I have good healthcare programs.  Medicare Part A starts for me on October 1 and will be part of my overall hospital coverage.  I don’t need Part B or others until later, when I retire and then choose to go onto Mr. 182’s plan or get onto a plan from my pension.

As you may remember, in July, my employer messed up the paychecks of numerous people by adding hours into a month already credited with hours from the preceding month, thus making my income look awesome (it wasn’t) and I was taxed accordingly at 47%.  We chose to put off a medical procedure because of the fact our income was not what we anticipated, and losing that income pushed us into a corner a bit.  We could have chosen to put the copays for the procedure on a credit card, but as we were told the procedure could safely wait until September, we opted for that.

In getting ready for this medical event, we had to do a number of things.  We had to pre-pay for anaesthesia.  We also pre-paid the copay for the out-patient hospital stay, knowing we would get a 20% discount if we did this; this saved us $161.00 and change.  We will most likely get the $350 back for the anaesthesia as well, about 30 days after it is billed.

Once more, the evidence of frugality and good choices have helped us out financially.  We have the cash, something we would have scrounged for only 3 years ago.  Having good health insurance made it easy for us to say “yes” to a procedure and not worry about out-of-pocket costs – for a $9000.00 procedure, we are paying 10% or less.

Before the ACA (“Obamacare”) we were still well-insured compared to many people.  We didn’t have pre-existing conditions (except that I am female, which is pre-existing condition in this country) nor high deductibles.  My deductible is only $450 / year, and then 90/10 if I use healthcare providers with contracts with my insurance.  Mr. 182 has about a $1200 / year deductible.  I was stunned to meet people with $10,000 out of pocket deductibles and so on.

Now, again, healthcare is on the chopping block.  The powers in Washington are doing what they can to destroy what Obama put in place – healthcare that has changed the lives of many.  Along with that, many services for women and the poor are being removed because of the witch hunt aimed at Planned Parenthood.

Prevention reduces future costs in healthcare.  I always wonder what people from countries with socialized medicine think about the for-profit approach to American healthcare.  To me, it seems barbaric that a country like ours fails to care for so many of its citizens.

Week 95: Rice Pudding from Leftovers!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Leftovers sometimes are not really exciting to eat.  Rice can be one of those things.  You can stick it into burritos or make fried rice, but you do need other ingredients to go along with those dishes.  An easy use of leftover rice is rice pudding – if you happen to like rice pudding.

Rice Pudding

  • 2 c. leftover rice
  • 2 c. milk (or a combination of whole milk, half and half, and so on)
  • 3 T – 4 T white sugar

Combine above ingredients in a sauce pan; bring to simmer and cook until thick.  Watch and stir – easy for the pudding to boil over or scorch.  I brought mine to a boil and then dropped it to the lowest heat.  It took about 20 minutes for the pudding to thicken.

Extras for Pudding

You can flavor your pudding as you like.  I added the following after the pudding was done:

  • 1 tsp. fresh cardamom, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. raisins

Others might like to add chopped almonds, chopped apricots, and so on.   Sour cherries are also good.  Some might like candied fruit and rosewater, or a beaten egg.  Cinnamon is also a classic flavoring.  Your call!  Serve warm or cold.

Leftovers need to be eaten!  Americans waste approximately 50% of the food produced.  Here, food is relatively cheap, and so we are wasteful.

As a family, the 182s are not immune to wasting food – sometimes it spoils before being used because of poor packaging, sometimes life gets in the way, such as work or being ill.  Still, we try to focus on eating up our food before it goes, and generally do a good job.  I try to shop only once a week, but have no problem with running to the market if we need something.  As we cook mostly from scratch, we might be out of this or that.

Being conscientious about food helps us focus on a major part of our daily life, and that, in turns, reminds us to be conscientious on our larger life goals as well.


Week 96: Hidden Costs and Monthly Expenditures

Monday, 4 September 2017

With our cell phones beginning to stutter due to old age and abuse, we decided to take a chance with unlocked phones from Costco, ones where we just move our existing sim cards to the new phone.  We have T-Mobile, with 5 lines and unlimited data.  The old phones had little sim cards – the new ones, Moto 5G Plus, have micro SD cards:  a hidden cost!  Our bargain phones are still bargains, but we spent another $50.00 for the cards after buying the phones.  We also bought $8.00 cases for the new phones.  What started out as $219 per phone has since become about $275 per phone.  Is it worth it?

Unlocked phones are nice in that they are transferable from one carrier to another, even if you do have to get a company-specific card.  There is not a lot of fluff on the phones, such as “My Sprint” or “My T-Mobile” or other “features” which take up space and data overhead.  The Moto 5G Plus sports a pretty clean set-up, with Android Nougat.  As we set the phones up, updates came up along as well.  Once we got the details down in the phones, such as downloading apps we use or like, adapting to the new phones was pretty easy.

We have a 90-day return window with Costco, so we will see over the next several days how we like the new phones.  Meanwhile, Mr. 182 will strip down the ones being replaced to see if we can “redo” the older ones.  Then we will decide if we want to keep the old ones and return the new, or not.  We use our older cell phones for things like audio books and picture taking, as well as other weird electronic things Mr. 182 finds on the internet.  The nice thing about Costco is their return policy on electronics.

Our monthly expenses for August were a bit higher than usual because of vacation, but they were paid for in advance.  The mess-up on my paycheck threw us into a financial tizzy, and to be safe, we used our lowest-rate credit card for some of our hotel expenses.  We did this step knowing that we have upcoming medical co-pays which will be about $1500 in September.  In another way, our budget in August dropped simply because I paid bills due in the first half of August during the last week of July.

Credit Card Payments:  $840.00
Student Loan: $786.00
Mortgage: $3797.00
Gardener: $100.00
Insurance: $616.00 (home, car, life)
Dog / House Sitter: $420.00 (worth every penny!)
Clothing: $120.00
Dog Food: $30.00
Auto Maintenance: $20.00
Gifts: $16.00
Household Supplies: $355.00
Groceriies: $458.00
Dining Out: $32.00 (a friend was in from Japan.)

Total monthly costs:  $7590.00, and less mortgage $3793.00.  The interesting part – at least to me – was how much we needed to replenish food staples and freezer foods (meats primarily) and household items.  We live in a high-cost housing area, which is why our mortgage is so big, but it is in line with much of our neck of the woods.

Looking ahead to September, these new phones may remain or leave and co-pays for medical will be necessary.

When I started down our financial clean-up path and planning for retirement, we often found ourselves short of cash every month, unable to comfortably meet emergencies.  Now we can with greater ease.  While not quite where I want us to be, there is improvement overall.  It is easier for us to adapt to financial upheavals today than 18 months ago.


Monday 97: A Weekend Using Things Up

Monday, 28 August 2017

If you have done any reading here at length, you know that we believe that hobbies are an integral part of who we are and our life style.  We don’t spend a lot of money on clothes or going out to eat; we are slowly working our way out of debt.

For us, the area which has expenses is always the area of hobbies.  Mr. 182 likes to brew and shoot off rockets – monthly brew sessions need yeast and hops and malt.  I enjoy photography, painting, and writing.  Photography requires film and developing – I scan my own film, and seldom print.  A digital camera is a one-time investment (unless you get a bad case of G.A.S. – gear acquisition syndrome).  Writing needs paper and pen, or a laptop, or a chrome book.  Painting, though, needs supplies, and usually all at once it seems!

Painting is not, for me at least, a digital art done on the computer.  It needs paper and brushes and colors.  Luckily, I have a lot on hand.  Instruction books are also enjoyable and need to be books, not a digitized version.  I spent Sunday afternoon painting and practicing watercolors, something I always enjoy.  Very seldom does paper go bad.  If it does, or I don’t like it, it is perfect for practice.  Brushes can last for years with proper care.  Watercolors, in the tube, need to be replaced as they are used up.  If they aren’t used, they can dry out and become hard as a rock.  Then, I open up the tube and use what paint I can salvage, not by squeezing it out, but by forcing the tube open and putting the paint in a small plastic square, which then goes into a paint box.

Monthly costs for hobbies vary all the time.  $25.00 a month for each of us gets us our basic needs.  A batch of beer, if there is malt on hand, needs fresh hops and yeast, and this amount covers both.  At times, the amount goes up with the need to buy bulk malt or specialty grains, but we find this is a really good average amount for brewing.  My $25.00 sometimes is used, such as $6.00 to develop a roll of film.  For July, I spent about $114 for supplies, from water brushes to paper to whatever.  August expenses are about $15.00 for more paper.

Hobbies are experiential, and really cannot be replaced by anything else.  They provide activities for the hand and brain and heart.  Connections with people of similar interests also occur, and new friends can be made.  I feel grounded and sane after a long creative session – there is something that makes a soul shift which changes attitude and perspective.  The intense focus of a hobby changes our brain waves, I am sure, much as does meditation or physical activity.

Hobbies are not self-indulgence but necessary for a fulfilling life!

Monday 98: A Day Late and Several Dollars Short

Monday, 21 August 2017

It’s really the 22nd, and a Tuesday.  Oh, well!

It’s funny about getting back from a long vacation and then returning to work.  It takes time – a lot of time – to settle down and get back into the ordinary routines of life.  Putting things away is easy, but catching up is much harder.

Once more, a focal point in my life is the ridiculous thing that the school district did with our pay checks.  We have started an email discussion (started by yours truly) and several of the teachers whose checks were affected.  The district is essentially saying that some flaw was found in the accounting . . . our May pay checks were issued as June hours, and then, to clean up the end of the fiscal year (June 30), we were issued a check for those hours as well, issued as June hours.  The result was somehow I miraculously worked about 270 hours in 3 weeks – as did other teachers.  This was to close out the fiscal year and to keep our June checks from being incurred on the first month – July – of the next fiscal year.

Okay, I get it.  But the fact is the district lied about hours.  That is one thing that gets me.  They lied to the IRS.  Because the powers that be are on an equal-pay system (same amount equally distributed throughout the academic and fiscal years), they are not affected, so why should they worry about a few little teachers at a small school?

Now, they have sent out an email showing us what will happen through December 2017.  But, they have not shown us how they plan to handle our next May-June hours . . . will we be punished once more?  That is the next question I have for them.  I must have some time to address this and time to write it, but I am really curious as to what they will have to say.  Or, will they deny it and then do otherwise?

It’s a pisser when you cannot trust people with your money.

Monday 99: Back in Town, Vacation Expenses

Monday, 14 August 2017

We got back home late Friday afternoon after two weeks on the road.  The trip is a memorable one because we traveled with family and saw places of historical value in family history, seeing where grandparents from the 1870s lived in the middle of Wyoming.  LIfe was not easy back then, although it was certainly cheaper!  Our travels took us to the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Fort Laramie, Teton National Park, and Yellowstone.  We took two days for a leisurely drive home.

Expenses came to considerably less than anticipated and budgeted for because my in-laws paid for 3 nights at the most expensive resort.  This was a wonderful gift, and it was also their way of saying “thank you” for planning and driving.  Their generosity is low-key and without fanfare, just like they are, and this is something so easy to overlook in daily relationships with people.  Loud, noisy people get your attention, but not necessarily your love.

Before leaving on the trip, I paid all the bills due in the first half of August.  Yesterday, I spent about 4 hours going through the bank and credit card statements online, to get figures and write them down, along with paying bills due after the 15th and planning the September budget.  I still need to compare receipts to charges, but it does not appear that there will be differences based on the few I checked – I was too tired to continue with fiddly details, and so will do it next weekend.

Expenses for our half of the vacation are below:

  • Lodging:  $1521.95
  • Food:  $1289.73
  • Fuel:  $200.76 (traveled 3600 miles)
  • Miscellaneous:  $136.71

Total expenses came to $3149.15, or an average $224.94 for two people, or $112.47 per person.  We also paid $420.00 to our dog / house sitter in advance.  Altogether, our vacation cost $3569.16, which is half of what I had in the budget for it.

Vacations refresh the soul and create memories that last forever.  How much you spend is unimportant, as long as you can afford it financially.  Family ties and good memories are priceless.