There’s Really Only One Way To Pay Off Your Credit Cards

credit cardsIf you’re in the middle of paying off your credit cards, and if you are following the Dave Ramsey or Avalanche method (whereby you throw as much cash as possible to paying down your debt) you may be making a terrible mistake. Some people earmark so much money towards paying down their debt, they leave very little cash or spending money to handle their day to day obligations. What happens is these folks wind up with so little spending money over the course of the month, they find themselves short on cash and guess what? They reach for that charge card again and ring up more debt. Duh?

The only true way you are going to pay off your credit card debt once and for all is to simply STOP USING YOUR CREDIT CARDS. Even if you just make the minimum monthly payment and NOT make another charge, that card will get paid off. Of course, this advice doesn’t apply to those people who pay their charge card balances in full each and every month. This advice is for those who have a revolving credit card. Negotiate for a lower interest rate, stop using them and pay as much as you can comfortably afford each and every month.

Leave a bit of cash in your wallet for wiggle room (in case something other than an emergency comes up) and do your best. Just stop using those cards. Stop relying on them to make ends meet. If you are then there is something seriously wrong with your budget. You’re living above your means and it’s time to start cutting down your expenses.

As a person who recently paid off four credit cards, I feel your pain. It’s NOT easy to put those cards away and reconfigure your financial lifestyle. I had gotten so used to whipping out those bad boys that I actually went through withdrawal pains when I decided to pay off my debt in full. It took me a few months, but it’s done. Those cards are neatly locked away for good (don’t cancel your cards because it lowers your FICO score). Just stop using them and switch to a cash-only spending basis.

I made the mistake of paying too much money towards my debt thus leaving me with very little cash to handle my day-to-day expenses. So, I started re-using the credit cards and charging coffee, lunch, haircuts and other little odds and ends back on my credit card, totally defeating my original purpose. Once I stopped doing that (and it was very, very hard because I had to say NO to myself or use actual cash to buy a coffee…..stupid!) I was able to pay off my credit cards in full.

Now, instead of paying off the zero-interest cards, I have a zero-balance credit card.

Much, much better.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

Sometimes A BBQ Is All You Need

Sometimes, having an old fashioned BBQ is all you need. Slow cooking baby back ribs slow-roasting on the grill (with your own secret BBQ sauce), home-made cole slaw (with a dab of sour creme) and an ice cold, seedless watermelon to top off the meal.

Cold brews optional but very necessary.

 

 

Here Are The Actual Dollar Amounts Of My Retirement.

I’m not going to tell you that my current income is 33.6% less than what my pre-retirement income was. That’s what most other financial retirement bloggers do. Unless you know the actual numbers of what their pre-retirement income was, you have learned absolutely nothing. I’m also not going to tell you I saved 5% of my gross income over my working lifetime, or 10% or 20% or 50%. Again, if you don’t know the base-line figure amounts, you know absolutely nothing.

I’m not going to give you percentages of dollar cost averages. I’m going to give you the real, honest-to-goodness, actual dollar amounts DH and I are currently living on. Our figures will include one paid-for primary residence home, one paid-for vacation condo in paradise, two paid-for recent model vehicles (one is a luxury SUV and the other is a fuel-efficient mid-sized car), one recent 2017 RV purchase that carries an interest tax-deductible loan ($140 a month), two paid-for 6s iPhones, one food bill ($350 regardless of where we are residing at present) two bills each of: electricity, internet, cable and security as well as primary homeowner’s insurance, condo insurance, RV insurance, DH health insurance, my Medicare additional insurance policy, heating/air conditioning, sanitation. I even have a category thrown in for misc ($25), haircuts ($8), maintenance on the primary home ($75) and travel ($100 per month which carries over to about $1200 a year). Throw in a $272 a month credit card bill that covers two more zero-interest purchases of all brand new appliances for our primary residence and a brand new Apple iMac computer for me to continue with my photography hobby. Oh yes, toss in another zero-interest $48 a month to cover all the new furniture I purchased for my new condo for the next four years.

We can cover all of the above ($2125 per month) quite adequately and comfortably from our passive income. That’s what it costs us to own two homes and two cars and travel around America in our brand new RV.

I’m not finished yet. I didn’t mention property taxes and HOA fees. Those run us about $933 a month which boils down to $2800 per quarter or $11,200 a year, which we withdraw out of our saving accounts. I rather like paying these bills out of our increasing savings account. Any overflow from our passive income goes into savings, as well as future earnings. DH is always hustling for some extra cash. He likes his work income to cover the annual HOA fees and property taxes. So, in essence, we’re really not touching our savings account at all. I don’t consider property taxes and HOA fees part of our day-to-day living expenses.

view from the top.jpg - 1Granted, if we sold one of our homes we’d have a helluva lot more money in the bank. But neither one of us right now thinks that’s important. What’s the point of having all that money in a bank or invested? Right now, we’re using just about everything we own and enjoying all our assets at the same time. Our annual expenses come to $36,720 and that’s just about right to what DH and I are currently living on. I’ll let you do the math. Our current living expenses comes to around 51% less than what DH and I earned AND lived on before retirement, when both our daughters were living with us at home.

Even if and when you figure that number out, you’ll come to realize DH and I lived on a lot less money together from what one person earns today. Our frugal lifestyle got us through everything. Intact and in my kind of luxury. DH and I have always owned two homes: one primary and one vacation, two cars and two cell phones.  And we’ve gone through a few several RVs over our time. Additionally, every winter we took our annual February vacations in paradise.

When you master the fine art of frugality and you know and respect the value of an ordinary dollar, you can accomplish a lot in life.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

What Does It Take To Retire Early

If you think having a few million dollars in a bank is your path to early retirement you’re not going to do well in early retirement. Early retirement is a mind game. It is the desire to cease working at all costs regardless if you have a few million dollars in the bank or not. At least, that has been my experience. I retired at the age of fifty. I’d rather stick needles inside both my eyes than work at a job ever again.

Regardless of all the planning you have done to earn yourself an early retirement graveyard, unless you have the guts and determination to stay retired, the slightest dip in your pre-planning may cause you to run back into the workforce. In other words, IMHO, the only way a person can seek and stay early retired is because they want it more than anything else in the world. It’s a lot of sacrifice. You have to be quick-witted, extremely agile and be the most cost-conscious solution provider on the face of the earth.

Lots of things are going to go wrong and be contrary to your ridiculous pre-planning. You can read all the books you want, scour all the DIY YouTube videos, read all the early retirement blogs you want BUT your life is going to be different from any other life you devoured.

Remember Jacob of ‘Early Retirement Extreme‘? Jacob used to tout the wondrous miracles of early retirement till he eventually got offered a job he couldn’t refuse. Once Jacob, who used to live quite frugally with his wife (who worked a teaching job BTW) went back to work, all bets were off. Unless you have the badassity tenacity of Mr. Money Mustache (IMHO), early retirement for most is just nothing more than a pipe dream. Early retirement is hardcore. You have to be willing to live so beneath what you had become accustomed to (try $1500 to $2800 a month!) and you have to rely 1000% on yourself. No picking up the phone to call anyone to help fix or solve your problem. You have got to do everything by yourself. You have to choose to live so differently from any other human being that you may never know the meaning of the expression ‘normal life’.

Early retirement is fun while you are young. Nothing, however, can prepare you for your eventual old age, declining health problems and the outrageous health care expenses that go with the early retirement extreme. There is no way a 35 year old can experience and prepare for what a 65 year old is feeling. Maybe that’s why the recommended age for retirement is upping to 67? Apparently, at this age you’re starting to get a taste for what’s really ahead for you in your future. Mr. Money Mustache, although pleasantly retired at an early age still goes to work by taking on side jobs! Thus making one ponder, what the heck is early retirement and is it really possible to achieve it at an early age?

You have to understand that should you retire early, your future life will be the continual constant of change and downsizing. You’re life doesn’t expand in early retirement. To the contrary, your life, upon early retirement will decrease, diminish, lesson, be reduced, will shrink, will be curtailed, deflated, shortened, shriveled and become small. Mr. Money Mustache just reduced his square footage lifestyle down to 1000. Both he and his wife voluntarily agreed that they will only have one child, as a means to keeping their living costs in the downward trend. As I said, early retirement means your future life gets smaller. Not bigger.

Almost no one in America dies of ‘old age’. That’s according to the NCHS, which is the government agency responsible for collecting statistical information on how we die. In the NCHS’s instructions for filling out death certificates, “old age” is discouraged for use as a cause of death: “Terms such as senescence [the process of growing old], infirmity, old age, and advanced age have little value for public health or medical research.” Instead, physicians are told to list the immediate cause of death and any conditions that led up to it.

Nothing in early retirement is going to prepare you for your eventual end of life. You’re going to get sick and you’re going to need a lot of money to stay alive. Nothing is going to prepare you for this true fact of life.

Almost every single retired person that I know or have met, despite their massive so-called saving account balances, their ample pensions, social security benefits, interest income or passive incomes are hustling on the side making AND bringing in more money, more money, more money. In other words, what I am trying to say is this: there is NO such thing as early retirement.

You’re gonna work at something till the day you die.

Young people are continually asking Jacob if they can retire young? They confess to him how much money they have in the bank, their age and their future plans. Jacob’s reply is usually the same: The main question you should ask yourself is thus not whether you have enough money, but rather whether you can envision yourself living an unconventional life outside the boxes that most others live in. If this is the case, the money to do so can be earned fairly quickly. The challenge is mostly in the mind, and so this is the real question you should be asking yourself. Can you be happy without doing what everybody else is doing?

If you plan on living a life alone, inside some sparse hut or cave, devoid of other human beings and common human comforts, you’re gonna do just fine in early retirement.

If not, don’t be giving up your day job just yet. Life is very, very long.

retirees

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

Planning Our RVing Adventures

sunriseFirst trip we are taking is to The Arcadia National Park in Maine. It’s also the first place the sun rises in The United States, so at least one very early morning is in the planning stage. (Coffee thermos mandatory!) DH and I are going to spend a week there, right after Labor Day when ALL the prices for almost everything drops significantly. In-season our full hook up site rents for $86 a night. We’re getting the site for $65 a night.

I’ve given lots of thought to boondocking (camping with absolutely no hook-ups of water, electricity or sewage). I have no problem boondocking an overnight stay while on the road BUT anything longer than that and I am NOT comfortable with it, at all. I like my amenities. I like a good, hot shower each and every night. Makes sleeping deeply more profound (I love a good night’s sleep). I also like to prepare a good hot dinner and in the morning I like a good hot steaming cup of coffee. You can’t get any of that in boondocking, unless you use solar, generator or battery BUT you always have to keep one eye on the clock, and that to me is too stressful. Plus you have to tow gallons and gallons of heavy water and DH doesn’t like the strain that puts on the vehicle.

We have other things planned for us to do in Maine like lobster dinners, sailing jaunts, beach combing, bike trailing and major hiking. I’m dragging along my camera with its respective tripod, so start expecting A LOT of photos from yours truly.

tikiOnce we get down to Florida this winter, DH and I will be spending a few additional days in Key West. I adore Key West! It’s the closest thing to a Caribbean paradise in America without leaving the continuous 48 states. The site I rented mid-week includes our own personal Tiki Hut and pier (that we can jump off of and do our own private swimming). The waterview is spectacular and since its off-season, the price is reasonable. That’s the glory of retirement: we can do things when others can’t…..thus we save money AND IMHO have a better time.

Once winter is over and spring starts to bloom, DH and I will be setting out on our lifelong dream to the Grand Canyon. Again, because its off-season, I rented a full hook up site for a week, right outside the National Park for only $57 a night! DH and I are working and scheduling the sights and sounds we want to experience. The only thing left for us to decide on is which route to take! I prefer sticking to the coast line. DH wants more inland. We’ll probably compromise and take the route in the middle!

map to GC.png

The Mediterranean LifeStyle

tel aviv beachIt’s no secret that the people of Italy, France, Spain to the north and Greece, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon to the east, with Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria comprising the North African countries, live and eat well. Time and time again, countless studies have proven that the Mediterranean lifestyle and diet has lower incidences of coronary heart disease thanks wholly on their heavy reliance on vegetables, grains, legumes and olive oil.

Mediterranean Diet Magnet.inddThe Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was developed for American eyeballs back in 2009. With its high amounts of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, promotion of heart healthy blood sugar levels, improvement of cognitive function, prevention of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer, I find it amazing that fast food joints are still in business in The United States. People who follow the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle tend to be thinner, have improved body mass indexes, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

Fortunately, DH and I are both Italian and had incorporated some of the Mediterranean traits into our lifestyle and menu choices. (going to Italy three times and France once helped!) Apparently, however, whatever we were doing wasn’t quite enough. Both of us this past year suffered from heart events (brought on by stress) so we’ve decided to go full throttle and emerge ourselves into a new lifestyle change and mode. We’re going 100% Mediterranean.

I’ve cleared out our pantry of all junk. We’ve started eliminating foods high in sugars and unrefined starches out of our diet. In addition to our traditional Italian style meals, we’ve added in more foods from Jerusalem, Morocco, Africa, Greece and France. We are eating more fruits and vegetables. Less red meat and more fish, chicken and lamb. Drinking more veggie juices and Greek non-fat yogurt smoothies. I’m learning how to prepare more meals based on grains, such as farrow, bulgur wheat, quinoa and brown rice. Lunches lately have been home-made hummus and falafel based (made from ground chick peas/beans) spread out over cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes and eggplant, wrapped up in whole wheat pita breads.

This is NOT a diet per se. It’s a conscious decision to simply make better food choices. If you look at the first bottom rung of the Mediterranean Pyramid, sitting down to a meal with other people is thee most important feature on the triangle. Sharing and enjoying a meal with others, with good conversation, leads to a happy and healthy lifestyle. DH and I have spent months de-cluttering our home, freshening it up with new appliances and a more modern decor. Nothing can be more of a debbie-downer than living in a stressful environment. When we think of the Mediterranean lifestyle, we envision people relaxing on a beach along the Adriatic Sea or the French Riviera (see photo above). That’s what it’s all about.  Good food. Good company. Good friends.

The Good Life.

 

I Live In My Own World

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been (since I haven’t written in a while….because I had nothing to say) I’ve been in my own little world. I love it in there. My little world that is. Everything inside my little world is agreeable. That’s because I set the rules and I change the rules to my own satisfaction.

Most of the sprucing up on our home has been done. Except for some of DH’s chores (like power washing the exterior of the house).  I’ve been spending a lot of my time just sitting out on my deck, looking at the sky and trees and being more grateful for the luxury of doing just that. Looking and observing. And thinking. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I suppose that’s what one does in retirement. Finally, you get a chance to take a breadth and think about the last few decades you have lived. And the next few decades you are going too live.

I’ve got a few challenges coming up that I want to master. For starters, I want to master boondocking with my RV because I don’t want to spend any more money traveling than I have to. The “young kids” out RVing today have brought a whole new light into the sport. They seem to have mastered it. They’ve got apps and spots and locations all buttoned down. They’ve got solar and hot wifi and pro sports cameras documenting everything!

DH is wrapping up his last job hurrah. He’s more determined than ever to NEVER take on such a long employment ever again. We’ve paid off our old debt and taken on some new debt with a careful eye stuck on that bottom line: passive income. Every retiree’s yardstick. If you can mange your life within that financial framework, you’re golden.

Yup, it’s nice inside my neat and tidy little world.

I don’t think I’ll ever come out.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

 

Release The (Free) Crackle

There’s a free movie and TV streaming service (yes! I said F R E E) that if you don’t mind watching a few commercials, can save you a bunch of money. It’s a Sony Network, called Crackle (click here). It’s very easy to set up. I set it up right through my Vizio flat screen TV and within seconds, was saving money. You can also watch on any of your other devices such as a smartphone, iPhone, iPad and your computer. The quality is excellent. The choices new and different. Throw in a few oldie TV shows like Seinfield and Who’s The Boss and you have a very nice alternative to high cable bills, high Netflix and Hulu bills, etc. etc.

video-thumb-comedies

For more information, click here. Happy weekend movie watching!

A Dollar Saved Is A Dollar I Didn’t Have To Work For

It’s never been a secret of mine to reveal to the masses that I detest working for a living. I hated it when I took my first job for Merrill Lynch down on Wall Street when I was a seventeen year old senior in high school. And I hated it when I breathed my last day on a part-time job when I was fifty-five and working for yet another attorney. UGH. I couldn’t drive home fast enough.

Over the years I discovered if I handled whatever money I earned frugally, I didn’t have to work so hard OR for so long. I made up my own ‘Art Of The Deal‘.  Buy low and spend low and sock as much money away in a bank account as possible. Stay out of debt as much as possible and live below your means as small as you can. Never pay retail. Never buy new if you don’t have to. And only buy what you need NOT what you want. Figure out the barest of necessities and then, still go lower.

Never stop learning to be frugal. Never stop learning how to save money. Learn from other like-minded people. You don’t know everything. Times are always changing. Change with the times and learn all the tricks of the trade. I betcha there’s an app for that! When you make a new frugal discovery, share it with everybody. The universe will share right back at you!

I enjoy saving money, living as frugally as possible. It’s a joy and a pleasure to live this way. Learn the true value of things, the true price of labor and other pleasures in life. Pay the reality price not the exorbitant price. But always, always enjoy your life! That’s the secret to living an authentic frugal life. If taking a cruise in Alaska is on your wish list, you have the money and the resources to make it happen. Make it happen BUT on your terms. NOT theirs. You can have and you can do and you can go anywhere on this earth that you want to. Just make sure it’s priced right!

Live well and prosper, my friends. Live well and prosper.

You Can’t Fight City Hall

We got an early morning, frantic phone call the other day from one of our neighbors. Apparently the 16 acre parcel next to our home (which abuts several of our other neighbors) was sold at auction recently due to non-payment of taxes. The person who bought this residential piece of land just applied for a permit and is going to erect a solar farm. The new owner works for the town, knows practically everybody on the Town Planning Board and was able to get some solar planning laws changed without much fan fare. That’s how politicians do their work. They benefit themselves rather than that of their constituents.

 

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We can clearly see the top of the mock-up solar panel

The good news is that the new solar laws limit the erection of a solar farm to only two acres. The bad news is that this solar farm is going to be erected on the two acres that are closest to our own property line. They already put up wood mock-ups to show where the panels will reside and they are clearly visible from my home. Not to worry, they told us. The new laws promptly attest that fencing and strict, high, vegetation (as in trees) will block our view.

The entrance way into this property is on another side road, far away from our home. So, traffic and noise due to the constant influx of trucks and service people won’t affect us. Nonetheless, it WILL affect my other neighbors and they are in an uproar. Already they have banded together, researched zoning laws, found out what rights they have and are seeking legal council. Practically all of my neighbors are super wealthy (don’t ask how DH and I fit in here) and have already put the solar company on notice that whatever resources it takes to fight them, they will do.

I have found all of this charade to be quite comical. Why? Because practically ALL of my neighbors are progressive liberal Democrats from New York City who voted for Obama and Hillary and chanted the great environmental benefits of solar energy. Unfortunately, each and every one of these phony imbeciles practice NIMBY. You know what that means, don’t you? NOT IN MY BACK YARD.  You can do whatever it is you want to do, but not anywhere near them or their property.

The only ones who are seriously going to be impacted by all of this is my husband and myself. Probably the new solar company is going to make a deal with us (as they hinted) and give us lifetime free electricity. Of course, I want that in writing AND I want to offer said freebie to the new buyers of my home! Ah, sigh of relief. Isn’t it grand to be a capitalist pig and get these morons to pay me off? And if we don’t get what we want from the solar panel company, DH and I WILL join forces with our neighbors and sign on with the class action lawsuit which will probably hold off the solar company for many years to come. Just don’t know how that is going to affect our resale value.

RI backyard

backyard of Rhode Island beach house

DH and I were planning on selling our NY home anywhere between another year to four more (once DH turns 65). The sale of this home was to be a major contributor to our retirement funding. This won’t be the first time an anticipated financial windfall bit the dust on us. After owning our Newport Rhode Island beach house for 10 years and accumulating a tidy profit, we saw all of that evaporate when the EPA declared ALL the houses closest to the ocean to be refitted with above-the-ground septic systems. I understood the EPA’s concerns (as more and more septic overflows settled down into the bay and surrounding bodies of ocean water) but I detested their corruption. Homeowners could only contract with the companies the EPA suggested. Granted, yes, there was low-cost public funding available (seven years at 2.5%) BUT very few homeowners qualified for the low-cost financing, and that included yours truly, ME! The new septic system cost $37,000 and the only way I could get financing ( I refused to use my own money) was for me to move out, rent out my home (at least for a year) and apply for a mortgage. So much for living debt free, eh? I got the loan, I moved out, rented my dear home for the verified year, had the work done, waited out the year and then put my beach house up for sale. If you look at the photo, the new septic system had to be put in the back of the home. Since it’s above ground, it’s an eyesore PLUS who really wants to use that backyard anymore? It’s a septic system! We sold the house for $50,000 LESS than what I paid for it over ten years ago. Throw in the $37,000 septic cost and all the financing/brokers fees and we were looking at a loss of at least $100,000.

I hope the fishes are sleeping much better tonight knowing that their water is so much safer thanks to the EPA.

Politicians and the environment are again attacking my most peaceful life. I don’t think any of us can escape the government anymore. They see homeowners as cash cows, ready to be exploited and striped naked at a snap of their finger. After seventeen years of living in this tranquil, what I thought to be, residential, agricultural farm land, it is now being turned into a money-hungry, greedy project the Town Board can’t wait to collect their ill-gotten tax money from (there’s big tax payments due from solar farms….but you knew that, right?)

If DH and I can negotiate free electricity, then so be it. More power to us (no pun intended). Would you buy a home next to a solar farm if free electricity was included? Hell yes! It’s quiet. No pollution. No environmental impact. Just free, clean, all-you-want electricity.

DH and I have already calculated yet another financial hit to our retirement coffers, just in case. I’m the Empress Of Frugal Living. I can make due with any amount of money you throw at me. That’s the genius of me and I’m proud of it! Our Florida condo was purchased with this exact scenario in mind. If all else failed, DH and I can live quite comfortably and happily-ever-after in our Florida condo solely on our Social Security checks! Thank goodness we have our new RV so we can travel each summer and stay cool. We’ve even started thinking that maybe we can buy a similar, affordable condo in the Rocky Mountains or Adirondacks if possible (I still want a beach place and a mountain place). We will get some money from the sale of our NY home. The unknown factor now is ‘how much’? In any event, I’ll make it work. Nothing is going to deter DH and I from living our best lives yet.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.