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?

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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?

Budgeting, YouTube

YouTube made me buy it.

May I just blame my recent (and not so recent) spending on YouTube? LOL.  But really.

apple blur business communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Over the past several months, years, I’ve been enjoying watching videos on YouTube.  I’ve even made a few friends.  BUT.  It comes with a price.  A HUGE price, in my case.

What am I talking about?  Some Most YouTubers share purchases.  Some are really, really convincing, and because I like them, I trust their opinions and I end up ‘thinking’ I need the item as well.  I didn’t wake up in the morning needing that particular item that they are sharing, but by the end of the video (sometimes during), I go the website and click, click that item is on it’s way to me.  Some of the items I’ve purchased have helped my life tremendously.  Revlon One Step Dryer and Volumizer comes to mind. (I’m not sharing the link…I don’t want to add to the problem!) But others?  Not so much.

The phrase “YouTube made me buy it” is not my own.  Other people are feeling the spending urge from these influencers.

But I’m better than that.  I know I am.  I’ll just need to put some distance from the triggers.  I’ve decided to give up watching YouTube videos for the next three months to see if my spending changes.  There will be some exceptions, i.e. Daily Mass, but other than music, spiritual guidance, I won’t be watching.  Podcasts will be my new go-to.  Blogs and reading.  I’m sure I’ll find other things to do to fill up the time as well.

Sorry YouTube friends.  I’m unplugging.  I may or may not be back.  We shall see.

Are you influenced by what others share purchases online?  Let’s have a conversation in the comments.

 

 

Budgeting, Goal Setting

No Spend Year: Cancelled

white apple keyboard near white cup
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

As a reader so aptly pointed out, trying to have a No Spend Year when I’m clearly not ready to stop spending money is setting myself up for failure.  On the surface, she was right.   Setting unrealistic goals is never a good thing.  It leads to guilt, self deprecation and the all around feeling of failure.   And, if you take the words ‘no spend’ literally, you don’t buy anything.  However, my “No Spend Year” wasn’t literal.  It was supposed to be a  “….no spend on mindless stuff that doesn’t matter and doesn’t help me meet my goal year“.   But if this reader thought this, there may be others who feel the same way.  I don’t want to come off as inauthentic, so I decided to clear this up for everyone.

My original post about a No Spend Year included this paragraph:

To be clear, this challenge isn’t about deprivation. It’s not about sucking the joy out of every day. It’s the opposite. It’s about spending money on what matters most – my health and wellbeing, my husband, my family, my friends. In fact you may be surprised as to what I actually am able to spend money on with this challenge, which makes it very different from what a typical ‘no spend’ has been.

As long as I continue to be mindful of my purchases (and not have to declutter them in six months), I will be keeping my goals intact.  Simply put, I will not feel guilty for buying a purse or anything else that makes me happy and doesn’t take away from goals that I have set.   As long as it meets my criteria of an intentional purchase, I can pay for it, and not have to borrow money, it will be acceptable.  The purse was somewhat of an impulse purchase, I’ll admit, but I never said this year was going to be perfect.  Baby steps.   It did stay in my cart on the Fossil Website for a week.  I still wanted it, so I purchased it.  Next time I’ll wait 30 days. 😉

Going forward, I’ve decided it’s best not to use the term ‘No Spend’.  I agree that it’s too confusing, and doesn’t convey what I intend.  So it’s out.  (In fact, I went ahead and corrected all of my other posts).

I hope this helps.

Happy March everyone!

 

 

 

Budgeting

February’s Huge Mess.

white and black desk calculator on white graphing paper
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yeah well.  The best laid plans.

It was a rough month.  Lots of money was spent.  (Thankfully we had stashed cash in our savings for just such expenses.  No debt was incurred.)

Here goes:

(Not included: regular, every month expenses including food/eating out and gas)

Home Maintenance ($11,604.00)

  • Unexpected new attic insulation (because of pest infiltration): $4,700.00
  • Tree(s) removal: $1,500.00
  • Outside Wood Replacement/Paint/Powerwash: $3,300.00
  • New cooktop/installation:  $2,000.00
  • Kitchen paint: $104.00

Home Furnishings ($596.89)

Household ($79.94)

  • Paper towels, laundry detergent, bath salts, strainers

Gifts ($418.39)

  • Birthday gifts
  • Valentines Day (I splurged on sending Edible Arrangements to our parents..worth every penny!)

Personal Expenses ($130.00)

  • Fossil Purse
  • Flowers
  • Stickers

Clothes ($167.00)

  • StitchFix Subscription
  • Macy’s
  • Mix/Match Subscription Clothes Service

Misc. Expenses ($1,675.78)

  • Ben’s emergency vet visit (he’s fine. 🙂 )
  • Away Luggage
  • Federal Taxes (although we owed money this year, we still saved $3000 from the previous year)
  • Cleaning Service
  • Car Maintenance

Out of Pocket Health Expenses ($851.72)

Thoughts on February’s expenses:

It’s been a month.

Home Maintenance:  Our pest control company came out and did a yearly inspection.  We’ve been having problem with mice, but we had no idea how bad a problem.  Our attic has been their home for a while.  In order to fix the problem, we needed to remove all of the attic insulation and install new insulation as well as seal all entry points.  $4700 was the “discounted” price.  The positive side is that our new insulation is supposed to be of higher quality, and will significantly reduce heating and air conditioning bills. We shall see.  Tree removal and outdoor maintenance has been ignored for a couple of years, but it could wait no longer.  And, of course, our cooktop. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to be able to turn on the burners without pulling out a lighter.  We spent more than we had anticipated, but fell in love with the 20,000 BTU burner.  Boiling water will be so.much.nicer. 🙂

Home Furnishings:  Because of the bad air flow in my daughter’s bedroom, we purchased a heater (in the shape of a fireplace 😉 ).  Money well spent, as her room has been toasty warm.  We are also getting new furniture for our living room, and decided to use the furniture store’s designer.  All designer fees will be taken off once we purchase the furniture.  Money was spent intentionally, which is always a good thing.

All other expenses are self-explanatory.  The cleaning service is a necessity at this point.  I’m having an issue with a pinched nerve, leg and back pain so it makes it difficult to properly clean the house.  I’ve found a woman who can help me out, so again, money well spent.  Clothes subscription services were a splurge, I know.  But it’s just so nice to try on clothes at home, clothes that have been ‘picked especially for me’.  We shall see how long this lasts….

I’m still having issues with buying purses and wallets.  Fossil was having an amazing sale I ‘couldn’t’ pass up.  Not mindful at all, so I’ll call that a fail.  However, the AWAY luggage purchased this month completes our set, so I’m happy with that, especially since I was able to sell other luggage we didn’t use.

In conclusion….

I’m not gonna lie.  This month was way more expensive than I would have liked.  I know I could have done better.  Hopefully all of the major expenses are behind us, and March will be a catch up month.

How was your February?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budgeting, Cruising

How much does a Caribbean Cruise really cost?

Over the past two and a half years, my husband and I have taken six cruises.  Yep, you might say we had caught the cruising ‘bug’ and went a bit crazy.  Our first cruise was in November, 2016 to the Western Caribbean and our most recent cruise was this past November to the Southern Caribbean.  We’ve cruised the Eastern Caribbean twice, and took a cruise from NYC to Canada. (It’s amazing how much money gets freed up when you are done paying for college! 🙂 )IMG_2627

My husband and I had a blast on these trips.  They were amazing.  But they weren’t cheap.

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We’ve discovered that there are many ‘hidden’ costs to cruising — everything from insurance, gratuities, and drinks to hotel stays, excursions and airline tickets.   In fact, my mind was blown when I realized I could have hired a cleaning lady every week for a year for the price we paid for one week in the Caribbean on a cruise.  Ouch. 

Below is a typical budget for an 8 day, 7 night Caribbean cruise on a mid priced cruise line for a balcony cabin for two.  I’ve included air fare and a one night hotel stay, because it’s always recommended to go a day early just in case something happens with your flight.  (The ship won’t wait for you.)  If you can drive to the port, lucky you! 🙂

 

A Sample Caribbean Cruise Budget

8 days, 7 nights – Balcony Cabin MidShip on Royal Caribbean’s  Harmony of the Seas in April.

  • Cruise for two/taxes:  $2,800.00
  • Gratuities ($14.50x2x7): $203.00
  • Insurance for two: $400.00
  • Roundtrip airfare for two (Coach): $1,100.00 (from DCA-MIA)
  • Hotel in Fl.: $150 – 250 (mid range)
  • Uber/Taxi/Tips: $50.00
  • Meals in Fl.: $50 – $100
  • Specialty Restaurants: $100 (You will want to try one of them, trust me)
  • Excursions: $100-$300 (This is on the low side if there are more than 2 ports)
  • Drinks on ship: $200 (This is what we’ve spent for sodas, water, mixed drinks)
  • Misc. tips: $50-$100
  • Spending money: $250-$500 (depending on how much you like to shop and/or gamble 😉 ).

                           TOTAL:  $6,103.00

(I haven’t included all the clothes, accessories, luggage, etc. you purchase before you go on the cruise, so figure another $250).

Are you shocked?  We were.  We usually pay for everything separately which gave us the illusion that the trip cost less than it actually did.

Of course you can cruise less expensively.  You can choose to cruise off-season.  You can cruise with another less expensive cruise line (i.e. Carnival).  You can drive to the port, get an inside cabin, never take an excursion, never eat in a specialty dining room or never purchase a souvenir. You can skip the insurance and stiff the help by not tipping.  Or something in between.  Your trip will still most likely cost $2,000.00 – $4,000.00.

So, is it worth the price? Only you can decide.

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For us, it was.  The time spent together and the memories that we made will be cherished forever.

The only difference is that now (since we know the true cost of cruising) we are being much more selective with our future cruising plans.

If you have cruised, please share! Did any expenses or the final cost surprise you?