Wednesday, February 21, 2024

We Survived!

Hubby and I survived the birthday "surprise" in which more than a dozen kids and grandkids descended on Vegas for hubby's belated birthday celebration.  Among the highlights...

  • Five people missed their flights to get here, three due to weather and two because they showed up at the airport ten minutes before their flight was scheduled to leave(!).  Three were able to reschedule and two missed the entire weekend due to weather delays.
  • Hubby and I cooked a ton of food for everyone which saved a lot of money over paying for everyone to eat out three meals a day.  We did take the whole group out once for a very reasonably priced buffet which everyone enjoyed.  I washed a metric crap-ton of dishes!
  • It was wonderful getting four of the five kids and several grandkids together so they could all bond.  They haven't all been together as a group for years!
  • It was a bonus that we live in a tourist destination so everyone was entertained by just heading out to see what was happening in the tourist areas (Las Vegas Strip, Fremont Experience, Hoover Dam, etc).  The younger people were out every night, the older people were happy to get to bed at a reasonable hour after a full day of being out and about.
  • Hubby and I ARE NOT used to being on our feet for 12-15 hours a day!  We were beat at the end of each day (hubby is 75 so he was probably way more tired than I was!).
  • It was interesting to hear a range of social and political opinions--from way left liberal to way right conservative and everything in between.  Fortunately political discussions were few and far between.  Among the popular topics of discussion were gardening, menopause (me and his daughters who are all close in age), financial planning for all of our later years, kids these days (speaking of the grandkids), previous reunions, etc.
  • I was really impressed with one grandson who is 19, very intelligent and really well spoken at such a young age.  His girlfriend was equally interesting to talk to and had perfect manners.  My faith in today's youth has been restored!
  • It was interesting to see all of the kids who hadn't been together in years pick up like they had all been together last week, not more than a decade ago.
  • We saved a lot of money by not only cooking meals but by baking a copious amount of desserts and by buying a huge box of different kinds of snacks that the kids could have which kept them from spending money at the store or fast food places.
  • Overall everyone had a great time and we are looking forward to doing our next reunion on a cruise ship!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

10 Things from This Week

It's been pretty quiet around here this week...
  1. We had several days of rain (thankfully a lot less than southern California) and the cats were wet (they don't like being wet) but they still showed up every day (sometimes multiple times a day) to be fed.
  2. The kids and grandkids are excited to come to the reunion/hubby's birthday party in Las Vegas.  We are getting ready for everyone, stocking up on food/soda/etc so we can feed everyone, and generally looking forward to the festivities.  We've had a big family reunion about once a decade for the last 40 years (once in the Philippines, once in Connecticut, once on a cruise ship, and this one coming up in Vegas) but the more people who are added to the family over the years, the harder it is to get everyone's schedules to work out to allow everyone to plan for the same days off.  Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to attend but it should be a big group anyway.
  3. Hubby's cousin took us to a nice lobster/seafood/sushi buffet for his birthday.  It was good, and by Vegas standards, fairly inexpensive at about $45 per person (the buffets with lobster on The Strip are closer to $100 per person!).  

  4. The Super Bowl is coming up tomorrow so we will, of course, be parked in front of our TV to watch it.  Although the game is in my city, paying $6000 to $10,000 per ticket is absurd!
  5. I saw a lot of people complaining on social media about their natural gas bill going up this past month around Las Vegas.  I got our gas bill yesterday and I feel like complaining too--it has more than doubled since the same time period last year (and basically the same amount of gas used!).
  6. Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea to put President Biden on TV for a live press conference???  Our presidential choices this year are awful!
  7. Hubby seems eeked out about how much money I make now from my job (he keeps asking how much I am spending to bring everyone here for his birthday, saying he should be the provider, etc).  Since we have always had separate accounts he didn't realize that I made the same amount of money several years ago when I was working.  I asked his if he thought the big house payments, new cars, and travel several times a year in the past was just funded out of thin air.  He had to think about that for a minute.  He said he is worried about what will happen to me financially if he dies before me (he is 20 years older than me).  I guess for both of our sakes, I need to take things like my investments/retirement fund/sources of income/etc more seriously and plan better for my/our future.  
  8. I'm a bit concerned about the Europe cruise we have scheduled in the fall.  And stories like this, plus other things like this related to my work are not helping!
  9. On another travel note, something I have never heard of before even though I used to regularly attend Quaker meeting is this option instead of hotels.
  10. Finally, here is a cool infographic on National Park passes.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

10 Things from This Week

It's been an interesting week...
  1. I love my job but sometimes I feel like it gives me a front row seat to watch the world burn.  I would like to elaborate in detail but then again, I don't want to get fired.  tldr; don't find yourself in an emergency department if at all possible, pay attention to people who may be suicidal, and don't take street drugs (it seems like everything on the streets these days comes with a generous helping of fentanyl...eeekkk).
  2. I finally told hubby about his "surprise" visit by the kids and grandkids.  He hates surprises and if everyone showed up and he hadn't prepared food for everyone or had things planned he would not be a happy camper.  Plus he would have noticed me getting set up for their visit and buying a lot more food than we could eat in months so I told him to just act surprised when they get here.  On a side note, airline tickets are ridiculously expensive these days! 
  3. I saw this post on saving money and thought 'we have been doing many of these things for years!'.
  4. And a reminder to not doom spend.  Although I have been treating myself a bit lately--I got a $150 pair of Altra shoes at Ross for $50 and a $250 Patagonia down jacket for $110 recently.  I like nice stuff but I can't see paying full price for anything!
  5. I recently found this lady on YouTube.  Although I am not yet 60, I feel like she is speaking my language.
  6. The cats are doing fine but we expect several days of rain starting soon...they hate rain.  I may become a cat lady after all.  I especially like pictures of interesting cats.
  7. I need to lose weight.  I am fat and menopausal and so blech :(  But it is so hard to eat healthy when every week we are eating out with friends, regularly walking by my favorite ice cream place, and just eating crappy food in general.  ayayay
  8. We did our taxes using H & R Block online as we have done for years.  Thank goodness I made a large estimated tax payment several months ago or we would owe a lot of money; this way we will get a few hundred dollars back which is perfect.
  9. Our city is getting ready to host the Super Bowl next weekend.  Needless to say, we will stay far away from the stadium and the tourist areas until after all of the excitement is over.
  10. I hope you are all enjoying a relaxing weekend!

Friday, January 26, 2024

10 Things From This Week

In this week's news...

  1. Obligatory cute cats photo above ^^
  2. I wholeheartedly agree with this list of things that have changed since the pandemic (and not in a good way).
  3. I just found this notice of a free e-book event and although the date has passed, it says authors often leave their books for free past the ending date. YMMV
  4. Reason #342 to delete Facebook.  If I wasn't following so many walking and hiking groups I would have left FB completely by now.  I'm still considering it.
  5. I like to sing in different languages.  It is sort of a hobby and I can sing in around a dozen languages (even once on the radio and once on stage with some famous singers in the Philippines!).  I thought I would try singing in Mongolian.  Mongolian is a very very difficult language!
  6. I saw this video on YouTube and that is exactly how my grandparents lived on little money--not spending unless they absolutely needed something and keeping quality items forever,
  7. Tax season is coming up.  I'm afraid to see how much I am going to owe :(
  8. Here is a massive list of freebiesAnd here is another list of freebies.  Since my weekend should be pretty quiet, I may even apply for some of these.  
  9. For the first time ever we exceeded our internet data limit of 1.25TB.  That's A LOT of streaming.  I am guessing we watch too much Roku and Samsung hub TV.  Yikes.
  10. Finally, we have a full week of rain predicted to start next week.  On the one hand, I am spoiled with sunny weather nearly year round so that much rain is icky IMHO, on the other hand, it is way better than the snow that many people around the country are getting!
Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

A Quick Update

It's been very quiet around here lately...

...the skies have looked like this, with copious amounts of rain, for the last few days.  The cats don't like rain.

...the cats are still cute as ever (however a couple of them are so fat and fluffy they are starting to look like racoons!).  This is one of the more skittish cats.  He looks like he wants to come inside but the minute I open the door he jumps away like his tail is on fire!  I don't understand cats.

...I got a fantastic deal on a Tumi bag at Ross of all places.  Usually these bags cost around $75 but I got it for under $15!

...Fortunately hubby and I are both recovered from whatever respiratory illness we had over the past couple weeks.

...Hubby's kids and grandkids are planning to descend on Las Vegas and surprise him for his 75th birthday next month.  I volunteered to pay for all of their airline tickets and hotels so this will be a major expenditure.  Did I mention hubby had 5 kids (with spouses), 13 grandkids (half with spouses), and three great grand kids?  Yikes.  They all won't be able to make it, but we should have a pretty big group of people.  This should be fun (and a major surprise for hubby!).

I hope you are all surviving the wild weather our entire country has been experiencing over the past couple of weeks!

Monday, January 15, 2024

20 Ways We Save on Our Bills

Whenever I am scrolling through reddit, there are invariably posts about how people can no longer afford even their most basic bills (housing, utilities, food, etc).  Not that these tips will work for everyone but this is how we can easily afford our basic household bills:
  1. For our mortgage, we moved from a HCOL city and bought a nearly new house in a (at the time) LCOL city.  Our mortgage payment is super low and so is the interest we pay on the loan.  Not everyone can do these things (especially finding low-priced homes and low interest rates these days) but not buying a house in a super expensive city will obviously save lots of money (my nephew bought a starter house in LA for $800k+ which is a stupid expensive price).
  2. I shop around once a year for a bundle price for our house and car insurance.  Prices vary widely so every few years we switch to any company that gives us a better price on insurance.  We also go with a higher deductible since we have the amount of the deductible in savings to use if needed (we also try not to file claims on anything we can reasonably repair because that also causes insurance costs to skyrocket).
  3. Property tax.  We do several things to lower the property tax on our house including getting a veteran's discount (many places offer senior and/or veterans discounts on property tax), living in an area with low property tax rates (New England property tax rates are ridiculously expensive, our area is super cheap), ensuring we get the lower property tax cap rate (the tax cap is 3% for owner-occupied houses and 8% for houses that are used as rentals), and challenging any property tax rate that is higher than it should be (we can submit comps to the assessor to challenge property values that are not in line with actual sales in the neighborhood).
  4. Electricity.  At first we would record our electricity usage everyday so we could see what made it increase, now we do all we can to conserve electricity, right down to unplugging everything in the guest rooms unless we have guests to avoid 'phantom electricity usage'.
  5. Natual gas.  Ditto.  The next time our gas water heater dies we will switch to an on-demand hot water system to save even more money.
  6. Water.  Ditto.  We conserve water as much as possible so our water bill is always very reasonable.
  7. Garbage.  While we would like to process our own garbage, in the city, having garbage service is required so we just pay this every quarter (the price is actually very reasonable).
  8. Sewer service.  Again, this is a flat-rate fee but we pay the fee once a year in order to get a discount over paying a higher rate if we were to pay monthly instead of annually.
  9. Internet.  We go with the lowest/slowest internet plan (the internet is not actually slow since we don't do gaming, video editing/uploading, or use many devices at the same time).  I call anytime they raise the price and they always give me a lower price (and often faster service), and I also buy a router/modem every few years instead of renting one from the internet company.
  10. Cable TV.  We don't have cable TV and instead use an over-the-air antenna as well as a Roku device (one time cost of $20) and we end up with more channels than we will ever be able to watch.
  11. Car.  We have one car that we share, bought it brand new, paid it off quickly, maintain it as needed, and will probably drive it until the wheels fall off.  The brand of car also matters.  We have a Honda which is a middle-of-the-road car; it's not fancy but will run for a good long time.  I've heard that people with Hyundais can barely get (super expensive) insurance because that brand is stolen so much here and friends with Mercedes' or BMWs pay an arm and a leg for all repairs/tires/insurances simply because of the brand of the car.
  12. Repairs to home or car.  Our first step when something needs fixed is Amazon for parts and YouTube for how-to-fix-it videos which has saved us A LOT of money.  We also have several handy friends who will help us if needed and our final option is to call a pro (I generally search the reddit for our city to find recommendations for the services we need).
  13. Consumables.  We have bidets on all toilets (this saves A LOT of toilet paper), use towels and rags over paper towels, wash dishes over using paper plates (we know several people who only use disposable plates/bowls/etc just so they don't have to do dishes), and don't use a lot of things other people do (disinfecting wipes, Swiffer wipes, fancy air fresheners, etc).
  14. Eating out.  Our eating out is usually limited to free meals in casinos (thanks to hubby's poker comps), and the rare good deal on fast food.  If we do go to a restaurant we will split a meal, order water instead of soda, and usually end up with leftovers to take home (portion sizes are crazy big here so we split a meal and still have enough food leftover to take home for a third meal!).
  15. Food.  Mostly we cook at home.  We usually cook everything from scratch, shop loss leaders and sales, shop at a half dozen stores in our area to get the lowest prices, and use store apps for even better discounts.  We also take food and drinks from home if we will be out for the day so we don't end up eating fast food all the time. 
  16. Clothing.  ALL of our clothes are bought at the Goodwill.  I can't remember the last time we bought clothes at a regular store but we do buy shoes, socks, and underwear new (again, it needs to be on sale or heavily discounted when I buy it).
  17. Cell phones/service.  We use the $15 per month Mint Mobile plan for cell service (we pay annually so with the discount, we each pay $185 per year plus tax for cell service).  I also buy a new unlocked cell phone (usually from Best Buy, Amazon, or from Samsung) every couple years then pass my phone down to hubby.
  18. Health insurance.  This is a huge thing for many people but is kind of a non-issue for us as we have free-ish health insurance from the military.  Our total cost for insurance is $30 a month and there are no co pays for appointments/prescriptions/etc.
  19. Hobby stuff.  Hubby likes bowling so he pays a reasonable $10 per league to bowl once a week.  I like walking so I buy steeply discounted shoes/socks/backpacks/etc online.  Ditto for tech stuff.
  20. Everything else.  We occasionally go to $4 movies on senior day, rodeo events are free to watch, being in a major entertainment city, there are dozens of free things to do everyday here, and our library is amazing and best of all, free.  Friends host house parties all the time, our city is criss-crossed with trails for walking, hiking is a short drive away at state and national parks (hubby has a $10 lifetime national parks pass and we get an annual senior state park pass each year), and there are many one-off events like getting freebies for our birthday, being in the audience of events filmed in Vegas, etc.
And to save even more, we don't carry debt (or pay interest), have a time share (a permanent money sink), have subscriptions (to gyms, Spotify, etc), have expensive hobbies (boats, RVs, horses, golf, etc) or spend money randomly (purchases are well thought out and then we wait for the item to go on sale).

Saturday, January 13, 2024

5 Things...A Quick Update

In no particular order...

  1. Our sunsets are amazing!
  2. Fortunately hubby is feeling better but still coughs like he is hacking up a lung.  Unfortunately a few more friends are pretty sick including one that is now on a ventilator (he had some sort of respiratory crud that turned into bronchitis that turned into pneumonia...eeekkk).
  3. We figured out which feral cats are boys and which is the girl.  I didn't even think about any of the cats going into heat but one is and she keeps slapping the male cats in the head.  We definitely need to trap these cats and get them fixed or we will end up with a huge colony of feral cats!  Double eeekkk
  4. It is cold here but at least it is sunny and there is no snow.  Friends and family all over the country are being hammered with snow, ice, and flooding which sounds just awful.  One friend posted that it is -25 where she lives...I can't even imagine!
  5. I watched a couple YouTube videos on how to invest my Roth IRA and it is slowly making money.  I really need to learn more about investing in general.
I hope you are having a safe--and warm--weekend!