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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

How I Keep Myself Wealthy

587fd5f944027151941214bdFor over forty-five years, the giant supermarket, Shop Rite, has been offering its customers a twice-a-year (January 1st and July 1st) savings bonanza entitled ‘The Can Can Sale‘ (click here). I’ve been going to this bi-annual event since 1987. That’s thirty years of stocking up on the basic essentials, as long as it came in a can! On each visit, I would buy enough to last me for 6 months until the next can can sale. That meant healthy caned fruit juices for my kids, oodles of tuna fish, peanut butter, fresh pasta sauces, coffee, vegetables, fruits and beans (to name a few of the many items offered at steep discounts) If you live within driving distance to the store, it’s worth the can-can sale trip!

FullSizeRenderSince it’s just DH and me now, our hoarding has narrowed down a bit. I still get cases of Tuttorossa plum and crushed tomatoes, Botticelli Virgin olive oil, Bumble Bee tuna fish, assorted canned beans (kidney, chick peas and white beans), olives and a few more canned incidentals. Instead of going twice a year, however, we go once and buy enough to last us throughout the year. The sale usually goes on for two weeks. This week I bought one case each of plum tomatoes and crushed tomatoes, a case of assorted canned beans, some cans of Bumble Bee tuna fish (packed in water) and 6 cans of small black olives. That savings came to $36.24.

Next week, Botticelli virgin olive oil will be marked down by $3.00 to only $9.99 a can. Last year this was marked down to $8.88 a can but in all honesty, over the years I’ve seen these can-can sales dwindle in value. Nonetheless, we use about one gallon of olive oil per month and if you’ve ever checked out the price of olive oil, it’s very, very expensive. Shop Rite’s can-can sales still offer great values. DH and I are both Italian, so cases of plum tomatoes and olive oil are staples in our family. Stocking up on these items alone is a great value to us. (every Sunday is still pasta night in our home!) We’ll be buying a case of olive oil which will be another savings of $36.00.

Another way we have saved money this past week/month/whatever was by buying a new, left-over, heavily discounted RV all set up for boondocking. What is boondocking you might ask? Boondocking is the ultimate way for any travel frugalista to well, travel. Boondocking means you are camping for free! Boondocking has been so popular that websites, YouTube videos and smart phone apps have been dedicated to it. Our RV is set up to be totally self-sufficient, solar ready (to heat water, work the fridge, keep the lights and TV on) has a large capacity water storage unit just perfect for a daily Navy-style shower, has a back up generator and enough propane to heat the RV, heat the water, run the BBQ or interior kitchen two-burner gas stove.  In other words, DH and I plan on doing a lot of traveling throughout America via boondocking; meaning much of our travel expenses will be null.

I downloaded a free app off of iTunes for my iPhone called Park Advisor (vs $9.99 for All Stays). It lets me know where all the free campsites are located (Wal Mart, casinos, military locations, public state and federal parkland) as well as rest stops, RV campsites (KOA & Good Sam’s and other private camp grounds) the nearest gas station, restaurant and help center. If there’s a phone available, I just click and call for more information. Directions are just another quick click away. On the first night we got our RV we stayed at a campground that cost $60 a night, but I got a 10% discount with my Good Sam’s card. Nonetheless, we paid $54 for a full hook up. Next night, I used the app while we were on the road, the app found the closest Wal Mart AND gave us directions to the location. DH and I had a great nights sleep, for free. Got up the next morning, DH was able to brew us some coffee and we had a few muffins for breakfast before we were out on the road again.

Total cost: ZERO. Now, that’s the new way I like traveling. Times have certainly changed.

Another bonus on the road traveling: the discovery of Panera Bread cafe’s. It’s nice to get a good, organic, clean, chilled and healthy salad on the road. We joined Panera Bread’s frequent customer appreciation program and we will be getting some nice rewards (free food) on our many trails.

Plan on hearing some more good RV savings from me in addition to my landlubber savings. Retirement is all about keeping down expenses while doing more things, adding on more activities and more adventures. At least, that is what it is for me!

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

It’s RV DeJa Vu All Over Again

hooked up to car

All hooked up and ready to roll!

DH and I spent the entire July 4th holiday weekend driving out to Michigan, picking up our brand new (left over 2017 model) RV Hummingbird Jayco Model 17RB and then hauling it back home to New York. If we had purchased this same exact model in New York, it would have cost us $22,000. If we had purchased it in Florida, it would have cost us $20,000 BUT by buying it and picking it up in Michigan (thus eliminating any destination or delivery fees PLUS it was a leftover, year end model) we got the unit for $14,800 (and this includes a $218 make-ready fee, which was fine with us because New York wanted to charge us a $1,000 make-ready fee).

The entire round trip for us cost us $394 cash for gas, breakfast and dinner (3 each) and a $99 hotel fee for the first night before we picked up our RV. Once we got our RV we boondocked all the way back home. We financed this purchase because we’re not fully retired (more on DH’s so-called retirement later on) AND since we still own two homes, I don’t want to touch our cash reserves just yet. So, what we did was pay off our previous zero-interest charge cards (due to remodeling  and new furniture costs) to the tune of $13,097.89 to make ready for this new loan. I know, I know, I know, we’re not supposed to go into debt when this close to retirement but here’s my justification:

There is no justification. No excuses. What we did makes perfect financial sense to DH and myself. We exchanged one debt for another, all payable within our monthly passive income should a calamity come our way. Both our homes and both our cars are paid for. Other than what I mentioned, we have no debt. The interest we are paying on the RV loan is tax deductible (as it’s considered a 2nd home). I consider this a lateral move with no stress whatsoever on our budget. The loan has no pre-payment penalty so if DH decides to sell his car, or we sell one of our homes, the debt will be paid off in full.

The only negative thing that happened with the loan was this: I was quoted, in writing (thankfully) the length, term and monthly cost of my loan, $142 per month. Naturally, when I got to sign the financial papers, the quote was changed to $162. I was told that that was because they couldn’t give me a 12 year loan as promised. They could only do a 10 year loan. Granted, yes, the salesman told me I should be happy because my loan would be paid off quicker. A light bulb moment went off in my head. NO! I said. You’re making me pay $2,400 more over the life of the loan! Then I made the light bulb connection……..MY AGE………I’m 66 and the bank wants its money back ASAP. To make a long story short, I showed the salesman my quote. That’s the reason, I told him, I’m here buying the RV. Honor it or I’m gone…….They honored it. End of story.

If anyone out there has ever applied for an RV loan, it’s one of the most difficult loans to get. Why? Because RVs are considered luxury items. The salesman told me I had an excellent credit score (near800) and I told him I am a fanatic with paying off my debts on time and in full as much as possible. I have graphs and spreadsheets and calendar reminders….I’m a nut…….But having that great score opened up a brand new door for DH and myself. Now, we can finally get to travel all over the United States, plus Canada, and a convoy trip to Alaska. My friends back in Newport RI keep clamoring and asking when I’ll be back. Our family in California and Colorado keep asking us when we will be there to visit with them. Paying for airfare, hotels (think:bedbugs) and worrying about my dog has been such a drag since I gave up my previous RV two years ago. I worked the numbers and because there is so much DH and I want to see and do, going back to RVing was our only thrifty solution.  Our main goal is to travel cross country and see the National Parks, especially The Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.

Now we can.

Here are some quick iPhone shots I took of our new RV. It’s only 17 ft long. As I said, if you go small (like DH and I always do) you can have it all. Don’t mind all the tags hanging down. The oven is a microwave/convection that also triples as a grill. Sweet. We have an interior flat screen TV (DH has to hook it up) and indoor/outdoor (bluetooth & USB) stereo music AM & FM radio and CD/DVD player. The bed is queen size. We have a full separate bathroom in the back with sink, shower stall and toilet (not those all-in-one toilet/shower combos……ewwwwww!) We have tons of space (even a linen closet in the bathroom). The unit is solar ready (for when we boondock) also has an outdoor shower (for when we party hardy at the beach), an outdoor hook up for a flat screen TV with satellite and cable and it has an outdoor gas grill. The electric awning has multi-color flashing LED lights if we want to turn the RV into a disco (tee hee….thinking seriously about that!) and we have one slide-out which makes the kitchen/eating area a bit more roomier.

You’ll have to excuse me for now. DH and I are exhausted. I need to sleep now. DH has to go back to work tomorrow. Oh, which BTW, they are so happy with the quality of his work, the company made DH the project manager. This means he got an instant raise PLUS a sign-on bonus, which went right into The Grand Canyon Fund. DH has once again delayed his so-called retirement, which as long as he continues to stay healthy, is fine with me. He’s happy. And our bank account is super happy. Go figure!

awning lights

LED lights under awning turn red, green, blue, yellow & white via remote control

L

convection:fridge

Fridge with freezer, microwave/convection/grill oven

kitchen

Two gas burner, sink, exhaust overhead, spice rack, ample storage space

overhead storage

Overhead storage space (above kitchen table)

queen bed

queen size bed (messy, I have to tidy up) kitchen table fold down to another bed

separate sink and shower

bathroom has separate shower stall w curtain, free standing sink

toilet

RVs best feature: your own toilet. Linen closet behind mirror

More Frugal Gourmet Dinners

I’ve been on a cooking roll this week! Creative as ever but always with a watchful eye towards the bottom line. First up: cheddar cheese asparagus quiche (made with evaporated fat free milk) Delish. Next: sauteed chicken, onions, peas and tomatoes in garlic olive oil, tossed with feta cheese over spaghetti. Double delish!

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