Cash Savings, Goal Setting, Retirement Journey, Spending

June Spending: Adding it up.

Every Monday during 2022, I am posting an update on what I spent for the week (variable spending only) as a way of keeping myself accountable for my impulse spending. Also, to see my true savings, I am tracking items I was tempted to buy but didn’t.

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(I thought I would post this a day early)

June is in the books, as well as the first half of 2022. It’s hard to believe how fast this year is going, and also how slow. (I’m anxious, for many reasons, for this year to be over!).

This week’s spending is rather high, mainly because of gift-giving. I was late in getting wedding cards out (to weddings we didn’t attend) and a family friend’s baby. I decided to just get it down all in one fell swoop. Ouch. I also filled up my gas tank on the 30th, and both categories felt a bit like ‘cheating’ before going into July’s challenge, but I wanted to be fully transparent.

Here is the spending for June 27 – 30th:

  • Groceries: $121.31
  • Eating out: $45.00
  • Personal Care: $7.00
  • Gifts: $506.00! (2 family birthdays, two weddings, and a baby shower!)
  • Gas: $41.65

Total: $720.96

June’s recap of spending by week:

Total Spending for June: $3,812.00.

Not the best month, but pretty consistent with my average spending. Hopefully, I can whittle that down to at least half going forward.

How was June for you?

Cash Savings, Retirement, Retirement Journey, SAVINGS

Nine months and counting!!

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We are now only nine months away from my husband retiring! This morning’s money meeting clinched the deal. Although the stock market has been taking a hit, and it seems like a disaster, there is a bright side! Interest rates for secure savings accounts are finally increasing!!

How will we manage our money?

For the first 5 years of retirement (just before taking social security), we will be utilizing laddered CDs for our living expenses. Fidelity has some high-yield laddering CDs, and I intend to take full advantage of the 5-year ladder plan within the next couple of months. We have recently taken advantage of I Bonds, which are presently yielding 9.62%. You can learn more about them here. I also moved some of our savings into other 12-month CDs that are getting 1.75% – 2%. (I know this isn’t keeping up with present inflation, but it’s much better than the .1% they had been offering). I’m keeping 9 months of living expenses in cash at Ally Bank which is finally earning at least 1%.

Why retire in 9 months and not now?

Although we could feasibly retire at any time, nine months will give us the time needed to get all of our accounts in order. During that time, my husband’s company will be adding 7.5% of his income into retirement investments, we will cap off our Health Savings Account and add more money to our liquid savings accounts. (Nothing wrong with some extra cash, right?) 🙂

It feels so much better knowing that we will have our living expenses in safe accounts, backed by the FDIC, and not holding our breath each month while the market takes its wild ride. (I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters. 😉 ) We can actually relax. We will still have a significant portion of our nest egg in investments, but since we won’t have to touch those for another 10 years, it will have the necessary time to grow.

Anyone else taking advantage of I Bonds or laddering CDs?

Cash Savings, Dogs, Relocating, Retirement Journey

Have we found a new retirement destination?

As we inch closer to a retirement date, we thought it prudent to start searching for a retirement location.

Via

We first listed our wants:

  • Driveable distance to family (Most important!)
  • Lower taxes
  • Excellent Health Care
  • Lower real estate pricing
  • Low maintenance, one-level living
  • An active community with hiking trails, salt-water pools, and entertainment
  • All four seasons, but a temperate climate in the winter (i.e. very little snow, if any)
  • If possible, a coastal beach
  • Dog friendly.

It all started with an income tax rate search for the following states: VA – NC – SC – GA. (Although we were once smitten with Florida (which has NO income tax), that wained when I got totally triggered on my last flight from Florida — long story — but suffice it to say I will only fly when traveling for a vacation destination or when absolutely necessary.)

Out of the four southern states that we were considering, North Carolina had the lowest income taxes (and thankfully was the closest to Virginia!)

Once we picked the state, we started searching the coastal cities. Wilmington, NC popped up in the search and we decided to take a closer look into this beautiful coastal city.

We found that it literally checked off all the boxes we listed above.

  1. Drivable Distance to Family: Wilmington, NC is approximately 360 miles from where I am now, which would be about a 5.5 hour drive. This is about the time it takes me to get to New York to see my parents, so we know this is a very doable road trip.
  2. Lower taxes. This is amazing. Not only is there a lower income tax, the property tax is 50% LOWER in North Carolina than where we are in Northern Virginia.
  3. Excellent Health Care: Although I couldn’t find a lot of information about healthcare in Wilmington, there are plenty of hospitals and medical centers in the area. I’ll have to look further into this one.
  4. Lower Real Estate Pricing: Based on what we are looking for (and we are picky!), a home would cost us approximately $450,000 – $500,000. This would be a fairly NEW home with all the amenities. Our home in Northern Virginia has been valued at $900,000 (which is crazy, if you ask me). We have a very small mortgage, so we could literally walk away with no mortgage and at least $300,000 in cash. That is certainly not chump change. 😉
  5. Low Maintenance/One Level Living: Retiring in Wilmington is a thing, and there are many one-level homes as well as first-level master bedrooms. There are many communities to choose from!
  6. An Active Community/Entertainment: Most of the planned communities in Wilmington offer pools, recreation, hiking trails, and entertainment. There is also Historical Wilmington (the actual city) that offers a beautiful Riverwalk with many restaurants and pubs.
  7. All four seasons, but a temperate climate in winter. Although the summers get hot (they do here as well), their winters are very mild, with little or no snow. Yes. Please.
  8. Coastal Beach. There are three in the immediate area, all offering different experiences. Kure, Wrightsville and Carolina. A nice grandchildren draw….
  9. Dog Friendly: After doing a bit of research, I found this article about dog friendly places in Wilmington. It would appear that Wilmington is VERY dog friendly. I also found The Dog Play Spot for when we would vacation, or just need a weekend away. I was impressed.

We’ve already spoken to a realtor and planned a visit. I have a good feeling about this one. 😉

Cash Savings, Florida, Positivity, Retirement, Retirement Journey

Plans are changing. A retirement update.

Photo by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.com

In a past blog post, I listed how we planned on retiring in 2023, even with inflation looming. If you missed it and want to know how we thought we were going to do it, you can read it here.

Fast forward 2 short months. A lot has changed, and most of the changes have been out of our control.

  1. Our retirement nest egg: i.e. the stock market.

Since January 1st, we have lost 15% of our retirement portfolio. The stock market has gone up and down so much it rivals the Yukon Striker! For all intents and purposes, that loss equates to three years of living expenses. Because my husband is so ‘young’, we wouldn’t be able to access social security for at least seven years, so our portfolio and personal savings is what we had hoped to draw from when we retired.

2. Selling our home and moving. Our original plan was to sell our home and buy another, smaller home without a mortgage. Since we still have a small mortgage on our current home, this would allow us to be not only mortgage-free but give us some extra cash. Our home’s value has gone up 17%, but we believe finding another home would be difficult. Real estate values have exploded, and homes are going very fast BUT for way more money than they are worth. I refuse to play that game. 2006 – 2009 was not that long ago. 😉 Florida was once on our possible relocation list, but the overpriced real estate and the problems with homeowner’s insurance are making us rethink this possibility. At least for now.

3. Cash Savings. This is one thing that is in our control. My husband is still working, and will continue to do so if the market continues to be a bear. In the meantime, we are on schedule to put a year’s worth of expenses away by the end of the year. If we decide another year of work is necessary, we will continue to put cash away as well as pay off our mortgage in full.

Sometimes unforeseen circumstances require a change of plans. We are adapting to these changes – even though they may require a change in our retirement date. However, we still believe our retirement is right around the corner, and are looking forward to a new adventure.

If you are retired, or are planning on being retired in the near future, how has the present financial environment changed your plans?

Cash Savings, Cruising, No Buy/Low Buy, saving money

How we are saving over $1,500 on our upcoming cruise.

VIA

Cruising is our preferable way to vacation. We love the convenience of unpacking once, having multiple venues to eat, free entertainment, and many ports to visit. But we’ve learned there are more costs to cruising than just the cruise/airfare. Even the “all-inclusive” lines sneak in extras. Since we have taken quite a few cruises since 2016, we have figured out what is worth the extra cost and what is not.

And, in the spirit of my 2022 No/Low Spend Year, we have decided to cut out some most of the ‘extras’ and save a bunch of money.

Pre-Cruise (at home):

  • Manicure/Pedicure/Waxing: Usually I would treat myself to a gel manicure and a spa pedicure before the trip, as well as a brow/lip wax. Instead, I’ve decided to give myself a spa day at home and save the time and money at a salon. I have all of the tools to do so. I will bring touch up nail polish on my trip. Savings: $150.00$200.00
  • Dog sitting: Original plan was to hire a dog sitter. Instead my daughter graciously offered to take care of him (which hopefully will always be the plan!) Savings: $400.00

Hotel:

We chose a less expensive hotel this time that included a few extra perks: Free shuttles, free happy hour, free breakfast. (You would be shocked to see how much two eggs over easy and toast cost at hotels in Ft. Lauderdale!) Savings: $100.00

On Ship:

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  • No alcoholic drinks. For this cruise, all drinks are included. One might argue that we already paid for the drinks. However, we booked this cruise over a year ago, and prices were a lot lower. We are figuring we have saved at least $150 – $200 on drink costs.
  • No specialty dining. Most cruise ships have specialty restaurants that offer different food fare – Hibachi, Italian, and steak houses to name a few. We have always taken advantage of trying one or two out on a trip. This time we will not. There are more than enough food venues already included, so we will not be paying extra for dining out. Savings: $200.00$300.00
  • No shopping. Even though the $10 sale will entice us me, we will not buy a thing. Savings: $10 – $100.00
  • No gambling. Ah, the excitement of the casino. We often played the slots ‘in our downtime’ between dinner and a show. However, we won’t be contributing to the cruiseship’s bottomline by participating this time. Savings: $100.00

At Ports:

  • No Excursions. We’ve been to all of the Caribbean islands on this itinerary so we won’t be taking any excursions. We do plan on getting off the ship and enjoying the public beaches for a couple of hours. At most, we will pay for chairs and an umbrella. Savings: $250.00 – $500.00
  • No Port Shopping. With the exception of a possible t-shirt for my husband, we will not be purchasing anything on the islands. Savings: $100.00

Total savings: $1,460 $2,000! Wow!

We will still have extra expenses — Uber rides, meals outside the cruise, and tipping. But saving almost $2,000 on stuff that won’t make or break our trip? Ahhmazing.