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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

This Was A Week For Stupid Tax

Apparently, DH and I are NOT paying attention to our financial matters. This can be a problem as you will soon find out when you hear about all the stupid tax fees we got hit with this week!

At the start of every work week, DH is given $60 in cash (his calculations, not mine). This is supposed to cover his gas and any little emergencies that might come up. Unfortunately, DH considers a little emergency buying himself a bottle of flavored seltzer each and every afternoon ($2) and an occasional candy bar (despite packing both candy & bottled water in his lunch box). DH says he works hard and he deserves these treats. Throw in a banana every once in a while at a buck a-piece for good luck.

On Friday, DH’s car ran out of gas. He just barely made it to the gas station only to find out their network was down and he couldn’t use his credit card. Why did DH want to use his credit card to buy gas after he had his allotted weekly sixty bucks to supposedly cover this expenditure? Because he had no cash! How could he when he’s spending about 33% of his alloted allowance on soda, candy bars and bananas? The gas station attendant told him their ATM machine was working if he needed cash to buy gas. DH called me first before using the ATM where I promptly scolded him for mishandling his money so improperly. DH’s solution was for me to give him more cash for the week. Really? I don’t think so.

Anyway, DH was stuck at that gas station because he let his gas tank go so low he couldn’t drive to another gas station or find one of our bank’s ATM machines. DH used the gas station’s ATM machine where he was immediately charged a $3 fee and our bank also charged another $3. SIX DOLLARS TO TAKE OUR OWN MONEY OUT OF THE BANK! I called our bank the next day to request a refund and they told me they eliminated that benefit a year ago. This was the first time in 16 years, since we first started banking with this bank, that I ever had to pay any ATM fees. The bank didn’t care about my loyalty or good behavior. DH and I were now out $6.00 because of his inability to manage his own life. Yes, things happen BUT when you are on a fixed income, things like this should be easy to avoid.

This wasn’t the end to bank fees, however. I needed a bank check this week as the down payment on our new RV. The bank charged me $10 for this privilege. WHAT? I usually got this service free because of all the total funds we have deposited in this bank. No more, said the clerk. “We stopped that two years ago“. That shows you how long it has been since I have used any of the bank services.

The next two faux pas are my fault. I usually pay all of the bills near the end of the month when I get my SS check. This month the check came in super late and I was NOT paying attention to all the due dates. I paid two bills one day late AND got charged $27 and $5 for these two stupid tax errors respectively. The first was on DH’s credit card, which he promptly called and got the money refunded (as it was his first offense) with no bad mark on his credit file. The second was to a utility company and no, they weren’t waving the fee. Too bad.

The total amount for this week of Stupid Tax came to $48! When you are on a fixed income, as DH and I try to be on, we can not be making mistakes like this. Forty-eight dollars is an awful lot of money. Almost half of a weekly grocery shopping spree. That would have meant buying less groceries for a week if we didn’t have a back up savings account. It was just pure carelessness on both of our parts. Now that I am aware of our joint stupidity, it’ll probably never happen again.

FullSizeRenderExcept that DH called me late yesterday, after work as he still was in the company parking lot. He needed gas again and he ran out of cash. (if I give him more cash he’ll just buy more stuff, so more cash is NOT the answer). This time I was better prepared and technically, so was he. He had enough gas in his car to shop around if need be. I had more money in our debit card account and I told him to fill up to $25.

Starting next week, his cash allowance will be reduced and he will use the debit card for gas.

I hope he enjoys his seltzer treats.

Live well and prosper, my friend.

Live well and prosper.

Is A Recession On Its Way?

expansions-1There’s no doubt that a recession is coming. After 8+ years of expansion, the third largest in US history, it’s only natural that our good times (?) will soon be ending. When we have bloggers, such as Mr. Money Mustache writing posts about an upcoming recession (Great News: There’s Another Recession Coming), then we all know for sure one is on its way!

Mr. Money Mustache has these words of wisdom:

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the US economy in recent years, you might notice that things are looking pretty darned rosy. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 40 years, wages are rising, and house prices have not only recovered from their fiery crash of 2009 – they have had several years of record breaking prices in most regions, just like the stock market.

It’s a lot easier to fix your problems right now, with a stiff economic tailwind at your back, than it will be in just a couple of short years (or less?) when the high seas and lighting bolts and whirlpools are ripping at your pockets. Fair weather preparations include:

  • Rake in your big paycheck while it lasts and don’t blow it on temporary luxuries
  • Keep your living footprint efficient – in expensive cities this is a great time to rent, and not a great time to spring for the sprawling home of your dreams on a big mortgage.
  • Eliminate any last shreds of consumer and student loan debt.
  • With the stock market at higher price-to-earnings ratio than usual, there is less harm in paying off your mortgage earlier, keeping six months of living expenses in cash or money market funds, and other non-stock investments like rental properties in low-cost cities (where reliable rent is over 1% of total property price per month).
  • Design your career and your self-employment side gigs so that they are resilient: multiple streams of income from different sources, and an easy answer for “What would I do if my job or industry ceased to exist?

My own rule of thumb, as crude as it may be is HGTV. During the 2008 Great Recession, which hosted the biggest collapse in the housing industry, I don’t know how that cable television station stayed in business. Its whole core operating system is based on the housing market. No housing, no tickee. Yet, somehow HGTV hung on and did more decorating shows than renovating. Have you recently spent a Saturday afternoon watching HGTV lately? Their entire lineup seems to be an endless supply of young, fresh-faced, eager couples, intent on buying as many fixxer-uppers as they can, renovate them back from the bone up and then flip the house for a neat, clean profit. Sound familiar? Yup, it’s 2008 all over again.

Two indicators of a recession are the housing market and the car sales market. To me, the housing market has slowly gotten out of control again (see above). Perhaps, unbeknownst to you, BUT a lot of people lately have been getting easy credit car loans and guess what? They’ve been defaulting. Sub-prime auto loans (just like the housing sub-prime loans) have been on the rise since 2015 AND in equally rising default numbers since 2015. Why have these red flags gone un-noticed?

Also, you can’t walk away from a car loan default like you can with a mortgage default. When you take out a loan to buy a car, somewhere in all those papers you signed is a clause that states if your car is repossessed, you are still personally responsible for the balance of the loan and all the interest and related fees that go with it. Those collections and wage garnishments can go on for years, long after your car is gone.

Ouch. Looks like this recession is going to hurt. Literally!

So, as Mr. Money Mustache (and I) ask: should you be worried? No, of course not says the Mister. After all: who cares about the price of gasoline, or affording cholesterol pills, or how to make the next truck payment, when you’re a wiry and muscular Mustachian, riding your swift and sensible bike a few miles to work and banking almost all of your enormous paycheck every two weeks? As for me, I don’t ride a bike nor have truck payments BUT I do worry about my cholesterol pills and the price of gasoline. I’m on a fixed income and I do live from Social Security paycheck to Social Security paycheck. And it’s not enormous. The best way for me to prepare for the upcoming recession is to make sure I am no longer  in debt, have ample savings in the bank and continue (no matter what) to live slightly below my means.

I know for sure a recession is coming. The only unknown is when. Statistics state it will be within the next two to three years. Personally, as the country’s luck will have it, it’ll probably be much sooner. In any event, I’m getting ready for it today. Paying down debt, reigning in spending, stockpiling as much cash as possible, de-cluttering and continuing to live small. That’s my key to a successful recession roller coaster ride. When you know it’s coming, it’ll be a lot more fun (if you consider recessions fun, that is) if you’re prepared.

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

 

 

Aldi Is Turning Into Just Another American Rip-Off Food Store.

I did my regular weekly (I’ll use that term lightly and I’ll tell you why in a second) shopping at Aldi this morning. Have you noticed more and more products just aren’t on the shelves anymore? For instance: ready-made pie crusts. It’s been three weeks and still no pie crusts at my neighborhood Aldi. I specifically went into Aldi today (instead of Wednesday, my usual day) to buy dog food. The bag just doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to despite me feeding my doggie a bit less every day.

I was told they were out of the dog food because Aldi was having the packaging redone. That was an odd answer, don’t you think? Are they getting a new supplier? I asked. No, was the response. Just new packaging.

New packaging?

It wasn’t until I got home from shopping at Aldi did I understand what the term ‘new packaging’ meant. Take a look at the ‘new packaging’ large can of coffee I always buy at Aldi:

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‘new packaging’ means 30 less cups of coffee for the same price of $5.29

I bought a new can of coffee at Aldi, paid the same price I have always been paying, $5.29 but when I went to pour some of the old remaining coffee grounds into the new can I made a startling discovery. The new can (on the left)was much smaller than the old can (on the right), contained 3 ounces less than the old can, which turns out to be 30 less cups of coffee than the old can! I started looking around at all of the other products I had been buying at Aldi and I noticed I had been shortchanged on many other items, such as cookies (9 biscotti instead of 10) dry goods (15 ounces instead of 16) pasta (12 ounces instead of 16) and so on and so on.

Aldi has now officially become like all the other rip-off grocery stores in America.

This was probably why I had to do my weekly shopping twice-a-week vs once-a-week and why my monthly food budget rose from $350 a month to almost $500!! DH and I kept running out of stuff long before 7 days have passed. These last two shopping weeks, I have been buying double of what we always eat (such as chocolate, bread, cereal, sliced turkey and block cheese) Even with the double shopping, there just never seemed to be enough food in the pantry. DH was always hungry.

I’m going to have to start looking at things more deeply now. I seem to be affected by a triple threat: buying twice, preparing more and eating less.  Hmmmm? In the interim, here’s what I’ve been doing lately to seemingly save some money on food:

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I’ve been making my own refrigerator pickles

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savings bits of leftover fruit in the freezer for smoothies

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here’s a strawberry smoothie, with a bit of plain yogurt

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marinated Greek chicken breasts (garlic, lemon juice, oregano, olive oil)

Debt Snowball Report.

We started on May 30th, and to date so far we have paid off $4,746.98 of zero-based credit card debt. We plan on paying another $2,621.31 by the end of June. In the interim, we paid our HOA quarterly fee of $1226, got a certified bank check for $1,500 as our RV down payment and somehow managed to put an additional $1,650 into our savings account. WHEW!

Then we will be taking a break from paying down our debt for the first two weeks of July because we’ll be in Michigan picking up our new RV. On our way back we’ll be spending a few days at the Letchworth State Park in upstate New York (click here).

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Letchworth is oftentimes referred to as  ‘The Grand Canyon’ of the east. DH and I have been looking forward to visiting the state park for some time. Now, with our RV, it will be possible.

Once we are back from vacation, we will be ‘attacking’ the last strand of old consumer debt in the amount of $5,729.60. We set up a six week plan of paying $955 a week (with a final adjustment on week #6). Once this final debt has been paid off, DH and I will have paid off approximately $13,097.89 in consumer debt (not including the HOA, RV down payment or savings).

Why are DH and I so gung-ho in paying off this zero-based consumer credit debt (after all, it’s at 0% and we have many more months to go)? We did it to make way for NEW consumer debt, in the guise of the RV loan, which will be slightly under $15K and spread out over 10 years. DH was fortunate to take on this high-paying project work purposely to pay off the old debt and make way for the new debt. Once DH complete this job, it will be his last. He will officially retire. He will probably sell his car (since we won’t need two cars anymore) and pay off the RV loan balance in full. Could we have waited? Should we have waited before we bought the RV? In retrospect……..NO…….life begins today. Especially when you are in your sixties and life is ebbing away. Let the young work, toil and save. We sixty-somethings have a time limit.

Once DH officially retires at the end of August, come September DH, the dog and I will pack up our RV and start touring America.

Go west, old man. Go west.

And so we shall.

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There are over three separate falls at Letchworth.