Monday, December 10, 2018

Today in Weird Money News

Either people are getting more outrageous or I am getting old and cranky but I can't believe the way people act these days in regards to money (or maybe this sort of stuff happened years ago but it was only known within a small group of local people as there was really no way to "go viral" when there was no social media...but anyway...)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Alternate Living Arrangements

I came across this post over at Lorraine's blog about wanting to move...somewhere, anywhere.  I totally know the feeling.  When we left Seattle I was super happy about leaving--the relentless grey skies and rain for six months out of the year were finally getting to me.  Fast forward to now and we live in Las Vegas with relentless sunshine (which is awesome).  But we also live in a city that grew by 50,000 in ONE YEAR and it is getting way too crowded here and, like Lorraine, living in the middle of nowhere on acres of land with our house right in the middle is looking better and better!

As all of hubby's siblings are retiring and the kids are transitioning too (one wants to live closer to her first grandchild--hubby's great grand child, one retired from the military and decided to put down roots in a small town, another moved across country but only kind of likes their new town, and another lives in a state with wickedly high taxes) and the questions of where (and how) to live has been a hot topic around here.  To date we have considered:

  • Van living.  Being a van-dweller is popular since it is so cheap (all you need is a van) and portable (you can drive a van anywhere) but I just can't see the both of us squished into a van and having to find public restrooms/showers to use every single day.
  • RV living.  Another popular way to cut down the price of housing and be very portable at the same time.  We had an RV before and while it was fun, it seems like things were always breaking--even with a brand new RV--and there were always expensive repairs to make.  Also the value of an RV drops like a rock and I kind of like the opportunity to build equity in a house.
  • Living in senior housing like a condo or a house in a senior community.  We lived in our cousin's condo when we first moved to Las Vegas and I really hated it (I'd never lived in an apartment or condo before so it was a new experience).  We could hear people walking--more like stomping--above us and the neighbors smoked which seemed to come into our place...ick.  Many of our friends own homes in a senior retirement community (Sun City Anthem) and while it looks nice, it also looks like God's waiting room--kind of like a cruise (organized activities, golf, clubs for every topic under the sun) that never ends.
  • Buy another house somewhere else.  This would be the most likely option although we can't agree where to move to.  I would like a house on acreage in the middle of nowhere and hubby loves all of the amenities of a it's a stalemate at the present time.  Owning a house is good for building equity but I'm getting tired of things breaking (so far we have replaced the hot water tank, the microwave, the refrigerator, the washer and will be a continual expense to do this every ten years on a fixed income!).
  • Shared housing.  I always was a fan of the Golden Girls (although the horror of having roommates during college is still in the back of my mind!) so the idea of buying a larger house and having roommates is another idea we have discussed.  Of course we would be very picky about who the roommates would be (one of the daughters would be a perfect roommate, one of the sons would not be, one of hubby's sisters and her husband would be great roommates, another sister would be a definite no).  This would allow us to have a bigger, nicer house but with others to help pay the mortgage and utilities as well as lend a helping hand with bigger projects like yard work.  Obviously the finances and divvying up of chores could get complicated.  Another thought was to have one or more of the kids move in (and pay a small rent and part of the utilities) so they can take care of us when we get old and then they can just keep the house after we die (since it is in our wills to go to them anyway), but we also like our privacy.
I think this topic will become a huge issue in the future as housing prices continue to skyrocket but incomes are either fixed (seniors), or stagnate (for many average workers).  People are continually looking for ways to cut housing costs (does it really make sense for one person to have an entire house to themselves?) yet privacy and autonomy are pretty important in our culture (in hubby's culture it is almost unheard of for just one person to live in a house by themselves). The moving saga continues...

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Why I Love to Cook at Home

This evening we had homemade vegan enchiladas for dinner (I was going to take a picture to go with this post but while the enchiladas tasted great, they weren't very photogenic!).  Even though we live in the land of great restaurants, I still much prefer to cook at home because...

  • It's cheaper.  For a few dollars we had a big meal for two (with leftovers).
  • Leftovers.  I like having a complete meal already made and waiting in the fridge which means leftovers fit the bill!
  • It's healthier.  Restaurants tend to pour loads of fat, salt, and sugar into their food to up the taste, but while the food tastes great, a 2000 calorie meal is really unhealthy.  At home you know exactly what you are getting in your food and can customize it yourself (lower fat, no salt, etc).
  • It's good practice.  You get good at cooking by practicing (a lot).  The more you cook, the better you will get at it (usually).
  • You get to make exactly what you want.  Many restaurant meals are a big hunk of meal with a couple of tiny sides.  I prefer to skip the meat and love sides so when I cook it is usually a tiny piece of meat for hubby and a half dozen sides.
  • It can be quick.  I go to a restaurant to eat but some places want to stretch out the meal for ages, at home I can cook a complete meal in under 10 minutes if necessary.
  • It can be an artistic endeavor too.  While I don't have an artistic bone in my body, I can whip up some fabulous cakes and pastries.  Baking is my kind of art.
  • You can try new things.  Most restaurants serve standard generic food but if you shop at good grocery stores you can try a dozen different kinds of lettuce, pick up heirloom tomatoes at a farmer's market, and try a dragon fruit or durien for dessert.
  • It's more sanitary.  I worked in restaurants during high school and college and cleanliness wasn't high on anyone's priority list.  You can't imagine what happens to your food before it gets to your table (our nightly news has a 'Dirty Dining' segment and it will make you never want to eat out again!).

Friday, December 7, 2018

10 Things for This Weekend

It's going to be a busy weekend...

  1. I need to find Christmas gifts for my friend and her family in Japan and get them ready to be mailed on Monday.  The gifts need to be really lightweight as the postage to mail them to Japan is incredibly expensive (a big-sized padded mailing envelope costs around $30 to mail!).
  2. Also I will buy postage stamps when I go to mail the gifts because the price is supposed to go up in January.
  3. There are rodeo people and rodeo events all over town so we may catch some live rodeo action at the Southpoint this weekend.
  4. I also need to do a couple of volksmarches (10k walks) this weekend because I want to use up my free walk coupons by the end of the year!
  5. I've got work to do for my biggest client including some end of the year stuff.  On another note, now that her job is back to being secure, I told her I would definitely need a raise by the end of the year or I would have to quit.  I feel like I am doing a lot of work and am not adequately compensated--she agreed but the raise has to be approved by her Board of Directors.  So by the end of the year I will either be jobless (eeekkk) or have a nice raise and retroactive pay from last July since the original deal was for me to get a raise back in July--the beginning of the fiscal year--which kind of went off the rails during their budget kerfuffle.
  6. I need to work on developing a couple of different streams of income because I will need to prepare in case I don't have a job by next month!
  7. We may drive out to Oatman this weekend.  We went there last year and it was a fun thing to do for Christmas because people decorate the desert shrubs for miles along the highway which leads to this small town about two hours from Las Vegas.
  8. There are more Christmas movies on the agenda!  So far we have watched a Christmas movie each evening since Thanksgiving.  Most have been pretty good!
  9. We will make out Christmas cards for the kids and grandkids then send them next week.  We have been really frugal the last five weeks so we will be able to give hubby's entire Social Security check which is coming in next week to the kids for the holiday.
  10. We need to renew our state park pass which expired last month.  At $30 for a senior pass, this is a great deal since regular one-time entrance to a state park is $10.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

50 Ways My Grandparents Survived the Great Depression

I saw this article today on how the writer's grandparents survived the Great Depression.  While these are general tips, here is a list of 50 specific ways that my grandparents, who were born in the early 1900s and were young adults during the 1930s, survived the Great Depression:

  1. They paid cash for everything.  They didn't have credit cards back then and taking out a loan was a HUGE deal, so my grandparents operated on a cash-only basis their entire lives (later they did get a mortgage for their last house).
  2. They always had a big garden and grandma processed everything by canning/freezing/pickling/jam making/etc.
  3. Their hobbies were hunting, fishing, clam digging, bee keeping, and sewing, among other things.  Their hobbies were fun but also useful for everyday survival, like putting food on the table on the cheap.
  4. They bought used whenever possible.  I don't remember my grandparents every having a new car.  Used cars, used trucks, used farm equipment, buying new was a really really rare thing.  Even grandma's prized hard-wood dining set was bought at an estate sale!
  5. They worked at whatever jobs came along.  Grandma worked at a sewing mill during the war, on the election board, as a local babysitter and house sitter, etc.  Granddad was a welder, a horse trainer, played in a band every Saturday night (grandma took tickets at the door), was a farmer, etc.  If there was a way to make money, they would jump on the opportunity.
  6.  They helped out people whenever possible.  Living in a rural area it was the norm to help other people out as you could, and they would bring garden produce and home-made baked good to the elderly, ill, and poor families in the neighborhood.
  7. They didn't go out and rarely left the farm expect for Saturday nights during and a little after the war to run a dance hall in town.  They didn't go out for dinner, go out for coffee, or go shopping unless they absolutely needed to buy something specific.
  8. All food was cooked at home--breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a thermos of coffee for granddad when he was out at work--every single day.
  9. They saved EVERYTHING.  Magazines, string, aluminum foil, reusing gift wrap and re-purposing cards (grandma would cut the front half of the card off and make it a holiday post card).  I didn't know there was such things as fancy glasses as we always used jam jars for drinking at their house.
  10. They bought things that held its value (guns, guitars, a sewing machine, farm tools) they didn't waste their money on things that would dramatically lose value.
  11. They saved a part of any money they received.  They always had money for an emergency because they didn't spend every dime they made!
  12. Clothes were made at home (this was before cheap clothing was common).  Clothes were also handed down to the next smallest kid multiple times.
  13. Their home security system was a couple of dogs.  But mostly the dogs were pets and back then no one locked their home or car doors.
  14. Fancy eating was a picnic with homemade food and family/community potlucks (also with all homemade food).
  15. The family had one TV which everyone shared and it took many years to get a color TV (bought used of course).
  16. There was no such thing as going to a gym for exercise since working in the yard/on the farm was more than enough exercise for everyone.
  17. The main way they kept the grandkids (us) occupied was to go camping (again, for the purpose of keeping the kids occupied and teaching them to hunt and fish).
  18. Entertainment was almost always at home--playing chess, playing Monopoly, playing music, cut out paper dolls, etc.
  19. I think the utilities they paid for were only the phone (a party line for years), oil for the furnace, and electricity.  They had a well, septic tank, used wood from their land for the fireplace, no cable or internet back then, and processed their own garbage so there was no charge for any of those things.
  20. Trading and bartering was a common way to get things back then.  Grandpa was an old fashioned horse trader (literally) and he bartered for lots of things instead of spending his hard-earned cash.
  21. They had one "good outfit" for church and funerals.  They didn't have nearly the amount of clothes and shoes that people have today and most of the clothes they had were farm work clothes.  If grandma wanted a new dress, she made it herself.
  22. They ate seasonally (no fresh tomatoes in January, only canned at that time of year) and worked seasonally (lots of farm work in the spring, summer, and fall; winter was reserved for fixing things and inside things like knitting/sewing/baking).
  23. If something broke, they fixed it.  Grandma would hop up on the (second-story!) roof to make fixes if the roof leaked.  Plumbing, electrical work, tool repair, car repair...they would fix it themselves or find a neighbor who could do the work for them (usually in trade for something the neighbor wanted).
  24. They didn't replace things until the item was dead dead.  Grandma's refrigerator from the 1940s was still going strong in the late 1980s!
  25. They didn't go to the doctor unless someone was literally on death's door.  Grandma used a lot of home remedies to fix whatever ailed the family members but she did make it a point to go to the dentist regularly for cleanings and check ups (she had all of her teeth with no cavities into her 80s).
  26. Everyone in the family from the youngest to the oldest had jobs to do.  Whether is was watching smaller kids, feeding the animals, mowing the (huge) yard, working at their U-pick stand...everyone had a purpose and responsibilities even at very young ages.
  27. They always kept more than enough on hand.  Unlike the people you see fighting over the last gallon of milk at the store before a snowstorm is set to hit, they always kept more than enough (food, water, fire wood, fuel, etc) on hand so that they didn't have to go to the store for last-minute necessities (then again, the nearest store was sometimes an hour away so shopping trips were well planned).
  28. They didn't travel like people do today.  If they had to leave the farm it was usually for an emergency (a close family member had a crisis and lived far away), and they almost always drove even if they needed to go across the country (I don't think my grandfather ever flew on a plane and grandma flew a couple of times in her late 70s to visit her brothers who lived on the other side of the country).
  29. Another main form of entertainment was visiting.  People would stop by to visit (the men would head out to the barn, the women would sit in the kitchen) and they would share gossip and news and grandma's baked good and that was considered entertainment for the day!
  30. They picked up a lot of things for free--berries from the mountains, cool rocks from the beach, ferns from the mountains, rose grafts from neighbors, plant starts and bulbs that were shared between neighbors, etc.
  31. Grandma grew all of her own flowers.  She had a beautiful rose garden, lots of bulb plants like daffodils and irises, and started her annuals from seed.
  32. All holidays were celebrated at home.  Christmas trees came from their land, Christmas tree decorations were made at home, birthdays meant a homemade cake and games for all of the neighbor kids, and Easter was a dinner made mostly from their home grown food and an egg hunt around their farm.
  33. They did without things that weren't absolutely necessary.  Then again there were not nearly as many consumer items to buy back then as there are today but they had to really need something before they would buy it.  For example they rarely bought paper towels because rags would work just as well and were cheaper.  And gloves for the kids during the winter were granddad's heavy wool socks which made pretty good mittens.
  34. They made their land work for them.  They would rent fields to other farmers if they weren't using them, had a u-pick section of their farm for years, grew grapes for local winemakers...if there was a way to make money from their land they tried it.
  35. They didn't feel the need to entertain the kids.  If the kids said they were bored, there was plenty of work to assign them so the kids usually went off on their own to play and make up adventures with local neighbor kids.
  36. Neighbors took care of each other.  If a farm animal was loose, all of the neighbors helped to coral it, all of the neighbors were armed and there was no crime in the neighborhood, if a family had an emergency the neighbors would help out watching their place while they were gone, etc.
  37. They never invested in the stock market and instead put their money into tangible things like land and tools (I think they saw what happened during the Depression and didn't want to get caught in such a crash in the future).
  38. They both liked to read a lot so they bought many books (again, used) at garage sales, thrift stores, and places you could trade in used books for other books.
  39. Gifts that they gave for birthdays and holidays were useful and practical--a sleeping bag for camping, a fishing pole, a gun (back then you could give kids guns for gifts and people didn't freak out), etc.
  40. There was a lot of social and religious pressure for everyone in the family to not mess up.  If you got arrested you shamed the entire family, ditto getting into trouble at school, stealing, etc.  Needless to say no one every end up in jail/court/needing bail/etc.
  41. During the winter everyone congregated in the living room which was heated by a fireplace.  Blankets were used to block off the open hallway leading to other rooms so as to keep all of the heat in one room.  They also used electric blankets during the winter as bedrooms in the house had no heating system.
  42. Families helped each other out.  Grandparents watched the grandkids while the parents worked, parents took care of their parents/grandparents when they got old, neighbors took care of other neighbors kids when needed, etc.
  43. They were much more concerned with privacy back then--they didn't discuss their money with others, didn't discuss their religion unless they were at church, didn't give their Social Security number to anyone, didn't talk about family matters with others, didn't "show off" such that you wouldn't be able to tell the millionaires from everyone else as they all lived pretty much the same (frugal) lifestyle, etc.
  44. Crafts were very common as they served as both a hobby and a way to make some extra money (by selling your work at the county fair).  Most people did some sort of craft like leather work, jewelry making, candle making, knitting, wood burning, etc.
  45. I think that because families lived so closely together (you were literally all together in one room most days in the winter) there was more of an emphasis on teaching kids manner and values and morals.  If you had to be around people all the time you at least wanted them to be reasonable socialized and civil!
  46. The work ethic was instilled early and most kids had jobs by the time they were ten or eleven--babysitting neighbor kids, doing work on other farms, bagging groceries at the local market, etc.
  47. Divorce was a rare occurrence back then.  There was a social stigma to divorce and probably economic pressure not to get divorced as well.  People learned to work out their problems instead of bailing at the first opportunity.
  48. Holiday traditions were very common and were pretty much the same every year--dyeing Easter eggs, a 4th of July picnic, Thanksgiving dinner for relatives near and far, decorating the Christmas tree...these weren't expensive traditions but were inexpensive activities that we looked forward to all year.
  49. There were several skills that were de rigueur for almost all kids at the time--learning to swim at the local swimming hole, learning to ride a bike on bicycles that had been handed down again and again, learning to shoot in the mountains, etc.
  50. People tended to volunteer a lot back then to help out their communities (as opposed to these days when some of our youngest EMT volunteers are nearing 70--young people just don't volunteer much these days.)  Men would volunteer as firefighters and EMTs, women would volunteer to help out the needy and hold holiday gift drives...this was an inexpensive way to help the community function and help those in need in the community.
Obviously things weren't all puppies and roses back then.  There was a lot of poverty and a lot of social issues like domestic violence and child abuse that was considered "normal", but people who lived through the Great Depression showed a creativity and resilience that I hope will show up in future generations during hard times.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

10 Ways for Seniors to Avoid Losing Money

If there is one thing that most seniors don't have, that's a lot of extra money.  When you live on a fixed income, you become very aware of your money, how to stretch it, and how to conserve it for your future.  But there are plenty of ways that seniors can lose money every day so if you are a senior or know a senior, be sure that you/they don't lose their valuable money by...

  1. Falling for scams.  I think seniors are the most targeted demographic when it comes to scams which is very sad (how can someone rip off an old person and be able to sleep at night???).  While the scams change a bit over time, there are several that are really common like these and these.
  2. Paying attention to their health.  The older you get, it seems the more prescription meds you are given.  Obviously medication is important and can be life saving but there are several ways to take your health into your own hands, mostly by changing your diet and exercise, which may decrease the number of prescriptions you pay for each month.
  3. Being in debt. If you are in debt, you are paying interest.  Paying interest is a giant waste of money since you aren't getting anything for this money but the ability to spend money you don't have!  Here's an article on seniors in debt.
  4. Getting all of the discounts that are due to you.  Whether it is a discount on your property taxes, a senior discount at your favorite restaurant, or taking a class to get a discount on your insurance, always always ask for a senior discount.
  5. Downsizing.  I know people want to keep the family home for as long as they can but if you are alone (or even a couple) and the kids have long since moved out, why pay to maintain, heat, and air condition a giant house when you can move to a smaller and thus cheaper to maintain home that fits your current lifestyle?
  6. Changing their lifestyle to match their income.  When you retire, you don't need to keep up with your pre-retirement lifestyle.  You don't need the "right" car, the professional wardrobe, the lunches out everyday, and everything else that goes along with a professional lifestyle and professional income.  
  7. Reviewing every dollar that leaves your account and determine if there is a free/cheaper way to get the same thing/item/service for less.  Every once in a while you will hear of seniors who still pay a monthly fee to rent their home phone--which they have been paying for decades!  The same goes for computer modems which are much cheaper to buy rather than rent, there may be subscriptions you still pay for but never use, etc.
  8. Cooking for an army.  It took us a while to ratchet back the amount of food we bought and the amount of food we cooked, after the kids moved out.  While we easily have a few months of food on hand (great for an emergency!), there is no point in buying food for the freezer which will succumb to freezer burn before it ever get eaten, or buying those giant containers of food at Costco which you will never eat.
  9. Loaning money or co signing for a loan for anyone--even your favorite grandkid!  By living frugally you can retire, by apparently living the life of leisure as a retiree, you may look like you have a lot of money!  Don't loan money you don't have to give as a gift and NEVER EVER co-sign for a loan for anyone.
  10. Spending too much--on car repairs, on home repairs, on home security systems, etc.  Seniors often get taken advantage of in these areas so if you need a repair done, your computer fixed, or another service, always ask friends for referrals, check reviews, check references, and make sure they are even a licensed and insured business to start with (it took my friend three months to get a shady contractor to finish a job at her house, she tracked him down at his church and asked his pastor for help getting the guy to finish the work he had been paid for!).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Some Random Things from Today...'s COLD.  At 50 degrees with little humidity that means down jacket and hat weather for us locals who are acclimated to optimal 80 degree temperatures.
...I found this list on reddit which may give you some frugal but useful ideas for Christmas gifts.
...FYI, it's another food recall, this time for ground beef.
...RIP former President Bush.
..this was a long (but interesting!) read on how winning the lottery ruined a man, his family, and his town. 
...this 7 year old makes $22 MILLION a year on YouTube.  Holy cow!
...on the bright side, my state has the fifth most affordable utilities.
...on another bright side, it's rodeo time in Las Vegas--the National Finals Rodeo starts today!
...on the not so bright side, crime and violence seem to be increasing here.