Goal Setting, Retirement Journey, SAVINGS

A July Savings Challenge and beyond!

Pexels.com

Anyone up for a good challenge? I am! Especially after reviewing my numbers from the year’s first half! I was shocked to learn that I have been averaging about $4,000 a month in variable spending. Although that average was skewed by April’s unusually high month, it is just too high and does not reflect how we hope to spend our money when we reach retirement.

Since we are tentatively nine months away from our planned retirement, higher cash savings will be key. We have saved quite a bit of money so far this year, but there is room for improvement.

So..I’ve decided it’s time to super-charge our cash savings. For this July Challenge, I would like to limit variable spending to only $750.00. Then, going forward until April 2023, I would like to spend no more than $1,500.00 a month.

That includes the following categories:

  • Groceries/Eating Out
  • Road trips (excluding actual vacations)
  • Gas
  • Vet/Dog Food
  • Personal care/household
  • Gifts
  • Clothes
  • Personal spending

Spending only $750 in July will definitely be a challenge. I’ve been looking over the categories and trying to plan out where the $750 will be spent.

We have a trip to NY planned, as well as a birthday celebration. Gas for the trip will take up nearly $100 of the $750 (even if we take my husband’s hybrid).

I don’t need clothes, make-up, household items, or gifts in July (just a family party gathering) and I already have hair color to take care of the grey roots.

As far as the dog, I won’t need to purchase dog food either. I still have plenty of kibble left, plus I can supplement with boiled chicken and brown rice. We just need to take care that he stays healthy because vet bills are outrageous. Last month Auggie had a double ear infection that cost us $500. We do have insurance on him, but we have not yet met the $1,000 deductible.

I feel ready for this challenge, but July is a long month. We will have to find things to do that won’t cost money, or at least not very much. (Any suggestions or ideas you may have on how to make July fun while spending very little would be welcomed!).

As usual, I’ll update every Monday with the week’s spending.

Anyone else want to save money with me?

Cash Savings, Retirement, Retirement Journey, SAVINGS

Nine months and counting!!

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

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?

Impulsive Spending, Retirement Journey, SAVINGS, Wasteful spending

Google Pay for shopping online? Not anymore.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Google has a payment feature (Google Pay) that when you are at a shopping site online and want to purchase something, it will auto-fill the credit card number you’ve established on your Google account. It’s a quick and convenient way to pay for things since there is no need to get your card from your wallet. I thought that was so cool — until I didn’t.

Google Pay and/or Apple Pay is an impulsive shopper’s crack. With the click of a couple of memorized security numbers, you can purchase your item in less than 10 seconds. Not good for impulse purchasers like me, to say the least.

I already know how helpful it is to put space between what I think I want and making the actual purchase. Most times I give myself 24 hours and end up not buying the item. Lately, I’ve been more impulsive in my spending than usual — I’m blaming it on boredom from staying home and ‘resting’ my foot. 😦 . However, after a few expensive returns ($60) and nothing to show for it, I have finally come to the realization that Google Pay is not a tool of convenience, but more of a financial impediment to my financial goals. It is no longer an option for me, and I have since deleted my credit card information from Google Pay.

Whew. I feel better already.

Do you use Google Pay or Apple Pay for purchases online? Do you find yourself buying more?

Retirement, Retirement Journey, SAVINGS

The Stock Market Ups & Downs and My 5 Bucket Sources for Retirement.

grey metal case of hundred dollar bills
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Preparing for an ‘earlier’ retirement requires making sure our money lasts.  Having various ‘buckets’ of resources is how we won’t lose our minds when the stock market takes a bit of a tumble.

Before I begin, if you are worried about your money in the stockmarket, please watch this video.  You’ll feel MUCH better.

Buckets 1 & 2 – Our Retirement Accounts

We have amassed, in my opinion, a significant amount in our 401K retirement accounts.  I will always be an advocate of the stock market, as it has proven over and over again that it recovers.  Slow, steady and consistent investing will give you the money you need over time.  We are proof.

We have two retirement accounts, and consider them buckets 1 & 2.

The first bucket will have ultraconservative investments, and we will use it to get through the first 7 years of retirement.

The second bucket will be money we will let grow.  We figure we have another 12 years of growth.

Bucket 3:  CASH. 

My goal before we retire is to have $200,000 – $250,000 in cash reserves.  I believe this will be enough for us to weather a long down market.

Our cash goal is a lofty one, but one we could do.  Thanks to my husband’s career, the fact that he was never unemployed, and his hard work to get to the position he’s in, we are now able to bank 50% of his take home salary.  (Of course it doesn’t hurt that all four kiddos are off Mom & Dad’s payroll!).  If I’m diligent with our budget, this goal can be obtained in three years.  I will take the fourth year to pay off our mortgage, which is the only way my conservative husband will retire. 😉

Bucket 4:  Social Security

Of course, we will have social security (yes.we.will).  We won’t start receiving it until year 7 of our retirement.  (I’ll receive mine two years before hubby).  If we keep our expenses low,  it will cover 3/4 of our monthly expenses.

Bucket 5:  A Divorce Settlement Pension (My HealthCare Plan)

May I just say I earned every penny of this? For all those that may not know, I was married and divorced in my 20’s.  I will never go into the specifics of that, but I came out ahead  with two GORGEOUS daughters and a pension.  I will receive the pension at age 62 (the same year my husband plans to retire).  I will take it as a lump sum, then roll it into an IRA.  This should cover most of our healthcare needs before medicare kicks in.

I believe it’s imperative to have several ways to get money in retirement, and cash will play an even more important roll in the future.

How are you saving for retirement?  Or, how are you spending in retirement?  Please share in the comments.

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?