Budgeting, saving money, SAVINGS

February’s Review & Savings.

white money printed card
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

February was a high income month for us as we received a nice tidy sum from Uncle Sam for our tax returns. I was able to fund a spousal IRA with the proceeds.

This month I also continued to see how I could lower my fixed expenses.  After a couple of phone calls, I was able to lower my homeowner’s and car insurance policies by $200.00.  I also received Chase Rewards and Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for a total of $100.00.

However, February was not without its challenges.  We had some pretty hefty bills.

blue and silver stetoscope
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some health issues reared their ugly heads which came to some big bills.  CT scans, new crowns, fillings and a tooth pulled, numerous doctors visits…. It all adds up.  Thankfully we had the money in our Health Savings Account to cover them.

Image result for picture of alaska

Our final payment for our 25th wedding anniversary trip in May was due this month to the tune of $3,500.  We are heading to Seattle/Alaska/Las Vegas!!  I had the money already saved, so I was all set there.  Fingers crossed we’ll be able to go.  It seems the west coast is experiencing the start of the Coronavirus.

Which brings me to our next large expense.

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I told myself to stay calm and even wrote a blog post about it.   I thought I was calm until I saw the end result of what I purchased from Amazon, Aldi, Trader Joe’s and BJ’s.  After stocking up on food, medicines, personal care and household supplies, I ended up spending a whopping $1,000! What the heck? How calm is that???

But the good news is that I’m pretty sure I won’t have to buy another bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, garbage bags, toilet paper, tissues or cleaning supplies for two years and of course we’ll be able to eat for two -three months without stepping into a grocery store. 😉

Even with all those expenses, it was a good savings month. I was able to send $4,230 to an IRA (thank you tax return!), $1,200 to personal savings and $250 extra to the mortgage.

Total Savings for February:  $5,680!  I’m very pleased with the result.

How was your February?

 

 

Budgeting, Retirement, Retirement Journey

Series: Retirement Preparation. The retirement budget.

grey metal case of hundred dollar bills
Photo by Pixabay

Expenses.  This is probably one of the most important of all the areas of preparedness for retirement.  Without knowing how much you will need in retirement makes saving goals for retirement a guessing game.

I have been preparing my budget now, and will be living off of our potential retirement income over the next four years, while saving the overflow in a cash liquid account.

Of course, we don’t know exactly what will happen in retirement, but we do know we will need a good amount for health care.  I am not going to nickel and dime this category  because quite frankly without health, nothing else matters.

Another line item I want to have is a significant amount in travel.  For the first 10 years of retirement, we plan on taking full advantage of our current health (good!) to blow through our travel bucket list.  (a topic for a future post!)

white cruise ship
Photo by Matthew Barra

That leaves us with the every day expenses — mortgage, utilities, cell phone, car expenses (insurance, gas, maintenance) food, eating out, gas, gifts, clothes, subscriptions, giving, personal care, blow $, household, taxes and insurance.

Mortgage.  Ultimately, we don’t want a mortgage.  Unfortunately, four years doesn’t give us enough time to pay off our current home.  Our plan is to sell our current home and downsize to a smaller home in our area.  Our children and grandchildren are here, so moving to another area doesn’t appeal to us.  However, downsizing into half the space, half the utility bills and half the taxes and insurance does. 😉 We hope to downsize in the next three years before we retire.  Potential Savings:  $30,000/year.

Cars.  We will be going down to one car.  In Virginia, there is a personal property tax on cars each year.  If you have a fairly new car (which we do), it can be as high $1,000 or more.  Going down to one car would be a HUGE savings to several line items, including car maintenance, gas, taxes and insurance.  My husband never uses his car on the weekend, and I barely use my car during the week.  When he is retired, we don’t see needing both.  Potential Savings:  $3,500.00/year.

By rejiggering just those two categories alone, we would save over $30,000 in yearly expenses.

All other expenses.

We are in a good place with other line item expenses, so I’m keeping them all the same for retirement.  By saving on the big ticket items (mortgage and cars), the other line items can remain the same.

So, where does that leave us?

Here is our preliminary REALISTIC retirement monthly budget, and one we follow now except the $2,500 is our mortgage instead of healthcare, and our taxes and insurance is $1200/mo.

  • HealthCare:   $2,500.00** (This includes insurance, co pays, medications, and concierge service for my endocrinologist )
  • Travel: $1,500.00 (5 trips a year)
  • Taxes & Insurance: $550.00
  • Utilities: $275.00
  • Cell/Cable: $200.00
  • Groceries: $500.00
  • Household: $100.00
  • Subscriptions: $25.00
  • Eating Out: $100.00
  • Home/Car Maintenance: $250.00
  • Gifts: $200.00
  • Clothing: $150.00
  • Personal Care (makeup/hair): $100
  • Blow $:  $200.00

Total:  $6,650.00

**Healthcare will go down significantly when Medicare kicks in, although I anticipate spending some money for gap insurance.

Well there you have it.  After months of agonizing over our expenses, I can honestly say the above numbers are as accurate as they can be.  I’m not going to lie, that is a high monthly nut to cover.  $400,000 for the first 5 years to be exact, then $135,000 for the next 2 years (when medicare kicks in).  However, once we start social security at age 67 (yes, we changed our minds again 😉 ) our monthly draw from personal savings will be $2,625/month or $31,500/year.

Will we have enough to retire at age 60 given the above numbers? I think so.  But stay tuned for the next post in our series, OUR CURRENT SAVINGS.

If you are retired or planning to retire, how do your expenses align with mine?  Please share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budgeting, saving money

Dumping Amazon Prime, and saving lots of money in the process.

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by Bruce Mars

It’s taken me a couple of years to actually pull the plug, but I’m finally doing it.

5 Reasons I’m dumping Amazon Prime

  1. HIGHER PRICES.  Amazon is no longer the least expensive retailer online for all products.  Recently I started checking other company websites and was shocked at how much less expensive things are outside of Amazon.  When I was looking for a specific item for my son for his birthday, I checked Amazon.  The item was $300, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend.  I researched the item and found it on another website, Academy Sports for $199.  It also came with a 20% coupon code.  Add with the 6% I received on Ebates, PLUS free shipping, I ended up saving over 60%.
  2. TARGET (and other online stores).  Other companies are starting to compete with Amazon, and I’m taking notice.  Specifically Target Online.  Recently I wanted to purchase some books.  Habitually, I searched Amazon first.  (That’s where you buy books, right?)  But then I decided to check Target.  Target not only had the books at the same price, but because I had the RedCard (no membership fee), I received 5% off and free shipping.  I also earned 1% in Ebates, so total savings was 6%. A WIN for me. 🙂  (Target RedCard comes in the form of a debit card if you’ve sworn off credit cards, FYI.    Not sponsored, I just like the savings.)
  3. HIGH MEMBERSHIP FEE. When I first signed up for Amazon Prime, the membership fee seemed minimal. I would make that up in the first couple of shipments.  Now the fee is $12.99/mos. or $155.88.  If I chose to pay for it all at once (which I have) it’s $119.00.  I understand that Amazon Prime isn’t just for free shipping.  They offer movies, books and ‘special offers’.  Honestly, I’ve rarely taken advantage of it.
  4. SUBPAR DELIVERY SERVICE. Delivery from Amazon is subpar, at best.  (UPS is a close 2nd in deplorable delivery practices.)  Packages were being thrown on our porch (we have the RING Security System and see everything!).  Also, we do not have a covered porch, so packages were getting soaked in the rain.  And, on several occasions, packages went ‘missing’ and we had to contact customer service.
  5. DEPLORABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE.  In the past, I’ve had decent service.  However, my last two dealings with Amazon ‘customer service’ have left me scratching my head.  Let me just preface this by saying I’m very careful about ordering products that I may have to return.  i.e. clothing.  I choose Amazon Prime, Free Returns every.single.time.  And, as I had anticipated, I had to return clothing items that did not fit.  After taking 15 minutes to find Amazon’s customer service number (1(888)280-4331 – you’re welcome. 😉 ), I had to argue with the rep because they said it was from an outside vendor and there would be a charge to return it.  It was very clear on website that it was free returns.  In the end I had to contact the specific vendor personally, and ended up losing 50% of the cost of my purchase. 😦

To be clear, I will still use Amazon from time to time.   I just won’t be paying the membership fee to do so.  I have a feeling that I’ll be saving much more than the membership fee.  It’s time to allow other companies compete for my business.   Sorry Jeff Bezos.  But I’m sure you’ll get over it.

How often do you check prices online?  Do you automatically go to Amazon?

Budgeting, Retirement, saving money

Tracking my money…how I saved an extra $1,000 in May!

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst

Do you know how much money actually flows into your life on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  Recently I started watching a YouTube channel, Enjoying Life’s Journey, specifically for her weekly budgeting videos.  I often pick up one or two golden nuggets from these types of videos, and this one was no exception.  What struck me about this particular channel and her budgeting videos (and there are a ton of them out there) is the fact that Jackie tracks every last penny that comes in and out of her life.  I mean every penny.

This past month, I decided to create my own excel spreadsheet and track every penny that came in and went out.  I thought I was already doing this, but it appears I’ve been letting money slip out of our budget, especially if it makes its way to me in cash.  In the past, I only budgeted the incoming paychecks.  I was shocked to see what actually came in, and what I was able to keep.  

Here is the extra money that came in May, 2019:

  • Interest in Ally Bank:  $10.59
  • Sold items: $275.00 (Facebook Marketplace)
  • Cell phone reimbursement from my husband’s firm: $60.00 (2 mos).
  • Chase Cash Back rewards: $117.50
  • Ebates: $37.50  (If you are an online shopper, this is amazing.  If you click on the link and sign up, we both get $25.00.  This is REAL money.  It took me a long time to sign up, but over the past 6 mos I’ve received $97 back.)
  • Medical Reimbursement check: $23.25
  • Anniversary gift from my incredibly generous parents: $500.00

Total ‘extra’ money for May: $1,023.84!!!

Normally, I wouldn’t track it and somehow it would be gone.  This month every last penny went into my savings account.

Keeping track of every penny allowed me to save an extra $1,000+.  I realize not every month will be as lucrative as this month, but I’m sure there will be something every month, and I will be tracking it going forward.

How much money is flowing into your life?

 

*Ebates is an affiliate link, and is the only affiliate link in this post.  Please know that I will never have an affiliate link that I don’t use or 100% endorse.

 

 

Budgeting, Retirement, Retirement Journey

What does a retirement budget look like?

pexels-photo-2068975.jpeg
Photo by Alexander Mils

A big part of our journey to retirement is figuring out what our future costs will be.  Some of this is guess work, but we generally have a good idea because there is a short amount of time before we retire.  One of the best things I’ve done, in my opinion, was plan our retirement budget and live on it NOW.  I initially wrote about it here, but have changed a few things.

Here is our monthly retirement budget with our real numbers. (Instead of HealthCare, we pay a mortgage, HSA, and LTC insurance).

Health Care/HSA  $                     3,000.00*
Utilities  $                         250.00
Homeowner’s Association  $                           80.00
Cell Phone/Cable  $                         265.00
Taxes (Personal & Property)  $                         600.00
Insurance (Car, Home, Umbrella)  $                         200.00
Home/Car Maintenance  $                          500.00
Charitable Giving  $        To be determined
Groceries  $                         550.00
Eating Out  $                         100.00
Household  $                         100.00
Gasoline  $                         200.00
Personal Care  $                         150.00
Clothes  $                         150.00
Gifts/Christmas  $                         300.00
Personal Spending  $                         200.00
Travel $                          750.00
TOTAL: $                       7,395.00

*In retirement, $3,000 will come out of a separate investment until Medicare kicks in at 65.  We will be taking social security at 62, 67, which will give us another $4,500 a month.  This should *hopefully* more than handle the medical portion of our retirement. That leaves a monthly budget of $4,400/mos. or $52,800 a year.

As you can see, I’ve kept in a sizeable monthly amount for travel.  It is something that is important to us, and I wanted to budget for it.  Of course at any time we may fall short, this will be the first to go.

Retirement advisors will tell you that you need 100% of your present day salary in retirement.  I disagree.  In retirement, we will no longer be saving for retirement, taking care of children, paying for college, etc.  By living off of my ‘proposed’ retirement budget now and not spending more, it’ll be easier for us to make the transition.

This amount may seem high to some, and low to others.  I know my parents, who are in their 80’s, live on MUCH less and they are very comfortable.  When they were in their early 60’s they traveled a lot, and used up their retirement accounts.  But my father worked for AT&T and has a great pension and social security to get them through these years.   I believe our spending will go down once we reach our 80’s as well *God willing*.

I will keep evaluating the budget (and our investments) as we get closer to our target retirement date.  Based on the numbers today, we are on track.

How does your budget compare?