Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Recap

OK--so far, so good for a start to the holiday season.

My total indebtedness has receded by $347.76 to $89,772.44. Not great (though I'm glad to get out of the 90 thousands into the 80's), but I'm not sure it will be even that good for December. Time (and Christmas) will tell.

In the meantime, having three new people living with me has meant increased utility costs but it's so nice to just hand over the bill and have my roommate pay her fair share. How come it never worked that way when my adult children lived here?

It's been easier and nicer than I thought to have my friend and her two children around the house. She cooks meals for her kids and includes me--I had forgotten that Diet Pepsi and nachos do not a meal make. How wonderful to come home to a warm home and a free meal.

Thanksgiving was the usual family madness but somewhat quieter than normal. My sister who lives in New York spent the week with me which is always fun. She comes with a list of restaurants she wants to try. Since it's at her expense, I joined her as much as possible.

We also got up at 5:00 a.m. to hit the local Black Friday half-price "socks and towels" sale. I don't get why people are proud of avoiding Black Friday, but then again, I don't get up at midnight to get the two flat-screen TV's some store is putting out either. Socks and towels are more my speed--no one is going to get killed over either of them.

Forward to Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Black Hole

I was reminded by this post at Always the Planner about the week-long black hole that follows Thansksgiving and Christmas. For whatever reason, the intense build-up to each of those holidays makes me think that's when the month ends.

But no!

I still have another week to go, and invariably, I am already out of money.

I may be able to make changes prior to Christmas, but it's too late for November.

Notwithstanding the lack of funds, Thanksgiving is shaping up nicely. My sister flies in from New York today, and, as always, Grace is hosting Thanksgiving dinner. While I like my Christmas to be small, Thanksgiving is an 'all comers' affair with my children and grandchildren free to invite anyone they want.

I do have a bit of a scam going. I sigh mightily and say in a forlorn voice that I will handle the turkey, but that means the family must come up with all the sides and desserts. As any good cook knows (which lets out most of MY kids!) the turkey takes half an hour of furious work, and then hours of doing nothing much. But it's been years and no one has caught on to me yet.

I hope your holiday goes well. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ya think? Time to Rethink Retirement?

Thanks to Mark's post at his blog, Go To Retirement, I came across this article from Businss Week.

The point is how people are having to rethink their retirement strategies.

Working longer is the main one. Of course there's nothing to rethink for those of us who already planned to work longer. My current goal is 69, but I could hold out for a year beyond that. But even longer? Hey, I want to enjoy some level of retirement so I have NO plans to work past age 70.

What I found disconcerting was the suggestion to forego the 4% rule--you know, the rule where drawing 4% of one's investments per year guarantees that we won't outlive our money? Apparently that rule no longer applies and the authors suggest that 3% would be a better model.

And I don't know what to make of the suggestion that we stop saving towards our retirment and spend the money now on travel or other things we might otherwise put off to a time when we might wind up unable to actually accomplish them. I understand the point, but for those of us who didn't start to seriously save until we were 50, there's no way we can put those savings on hold.

"Rethinking" is giving Grace a major headache.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Dumpster

Here's the thing about dumpsters--they are such a great metaphor for any number of things. Life for one. If you're an optimist, you can see a massive clean-up as a good thing. Or, if you're a tad more cynical, you can think of the dumpster itself as life. While there is undeniable pleasure at simplifying one's life, there are also a lot of memories that wind up that huge metal can.

I thought I was going overboard when I got a 10-yard drop box--it holds 2000 pounds and it takes up most of my back yard. How would I ever fill it?

Fast forward two days, and that sucker is filled to the brim. Why exactly I was storing a broken pink desk is beyond me. Ditto the miscellaneous mattresses, all with various urine stains. And the two vacuum cleaners that throw sparks when turned on. Not to mention boxes of outdated clothing and toys, most of which wound up mildewed and were no longer usable.

Oh and then there's nearly 300 VHS tapes, which recycling centers no longer take--these were movies I copied, and since I mostly did that more than 20 years ago, the movies now resemble a Seurat painting--besides which I can't find my VHS player. But mixed among the home-videoed movies was the tape of my oldest daughter's wedding--it, too now just a mass of pixels.

A couple of my kids who were helping me clean things out got irritated when it turned out I had not taken close enough care of items they'd left behind as they moved into their adult lives. I don't recall promising to take care of their boxes, though I probably meant to. But a damp basement is a damp basement--and damage ensues. And when it does, into the dumptster the 'saved' items go.

So what am I learning from my dumpster? Cleaning house is every bit as hard as cleaning up one's finances.

Friday, November 4, 2011

They are Coming

The 'They' in question are a good friend, her two children, and their two pets.

Where they are coming, is to my state and, specifically, to my home. Our agreement is for a maximum six-month stay--less if my friend finds a job and a rental before then.

My friend was terminated from her position with the state of California after 20+ years on the job. 20 of those years were without any complaints, but a single misstep that would have resulted in a reprimand in the past landed her without a job. To make it worse, the state has contested her Unemployment Compensation in an effort to stop her from getting any benefits. She's not alone--eleven people in her department were similarly and summarily dismissed.

So now she's making the move to the pacific northwest.

Overall, this should work to my financial benefit in that I will have someone reliable to share utility expenses and upkeep. (Fortunately, my friend does have a savings account to cover her bills while she looks for work. Also, since living expenses are considerably less in my state than in California, she doesn't need to find work that pays what she used to make.)

BUT, the preparations are expensive.

First, I had to clean house. Sounds easy, but in reality, it takes not only a lot of time, but I wound up renting a dumpster. Second, I had to make my basement habitable--which means painting, steam cleaning the carpets, and paying my adult kids to help me wash down the walls and move furniture.

Then I had to fix up my kitchen. The truth is, when it's just me, I don't cook all that much. But my friend is a good cook and her children are used to home-made meals. Again, I'm looking forward to this,but that means I have to take a look around my kitchen and get it back in shape for actual use.

Oh, and I had to get more heating oil. Does anyone besides me find $3.79 a gallon on the outrageous side? Gas prices are going down, but apparently the heating oil market has yet to notice.

The family arrives on Veteran's Day. I've got less than a week to be ready. Can I start tearing my hair out yet?