Retirement Remedies: Third Quarter Report on How I'm Saving...Or why I'm not.

It feels like forever since I did my first 'report' of how I'd come along with my savings plans, etc.  I know exactly what happened in the second quarter.  I spent all my time just getting well!  There's a huge savings in that I reckon, but then again, I had no idea how ill I was, so there you go.

Since I missed reporting on the second quarter I may mention a few things that I did then.  I won't by any means try to cover all of them as I plan to try and do with my third quarter savings.

First, I did make another bulk meat purchase in May, just before I fell ill.  I bought whole chickens from a nearby discount grocer that were every bit as good as those from the meat market.  I did purchase breasts (bone in) at that time, too as they were about $1/pound at that time.  The whole chickens were $.88/pound,  a price that is fairly regular at this store this year.

 At the end of the first quarter I'd managed to 'find' all but $60 of the  insurance premium amount in our budget.  That amount came from money that formerly went into savings.  It couldn't be helped and we did our very best to make sure all the other areas we'd stretched to cover the rest of the premium stayed stretched.

We took a trip to Kingsland (paid for with cash earned from surveys once again and earning more Swag bucks with our stay) and John insisted on a short three day vacation in St. Augustine in mid-May.  He paid for this from a separate savings account that we seldom to never touch.  I am so grateful he did.  We brought money back home that we had leftover.  We'd agreed back in May that we'd set it aside for the fair.

Less than two weeks following our return I was in health crisis.

During second quarter I'd worked hard to put up several meals I made for Katie and Matt to ease the time following Taylor's birth.  I had almost three weeks worth on hand when I became ill.  Katie had asked me to wait until she was home before taking the foodstuffs to her.  As it happened I was in the hospital the day after Taylor's birth...  This worked out extremely well for us both, because I was able to use some of those meals to help me when I returned home from hospital. And along about the time Taylor was two months old when Katie was attempting to work from home, she was able to take home two weeks worth of meals for their use.  That bit of economy came in very handy for us both!

Mama generously bought and put up corn and butter beans and peas to stock my freezer.  I am still using what I put up last year, so we should have plenty of those items to fill out our meal plans through winter.

And so we'll begin third quarter:  I earned approximately $98 from booth sales, surveys and Swag bucks the first part of May and the latter part of June.  I tucked that away and ear marked it for medical bills.  I also received another $120 in gifts from two kind souls and that money also was set aside for medical bills.  The first bill to come due required only $50 more to be paid in full, and we paid it from our regular funds.  I was very proud of the savings I'd set aside to help with that first bill.

We were hit with a number of large bills all at once and after long discussions, we borrowed from our personal line of credit to pay them.  We have channeled a portion of the money we were saving to repay that loan.  We have since withdrawn an additional $1000 from savings to cover more bills.  To date, we have paid in full every bill that has come into our home.  Thank God, they are trickling in and not hitting us all at once.  Mama gifted us an amount of money which was mostly applied towards making a big payment on our loan.  I set aside a portion of those funds to pay medical bills. In the past month I've paid six good sized bills using the money set aside.

Groceries got completely out of hand in July and August.  I was well above my new low budget amount and even higher than my old budget amount.  During the first month, it was a matter of trying to find convenience friendly ways to support my new eating plan.  Not being up to a full blown shopping trip, I made do with what we could purchase at the local grocery or John could pick up when we did travel to the city.  It was about mid-July before I felt really well enough to do a full on shopping trip.

In August, I was attempting to both restock our pantry and keep a plethora of fresh produce in the house. We made several extra trips trying to keep the amount of fresh produce on hand that is required for my meal plans.  By end of August I'd decided to (a) increase my food budget once more to the former amount, an extra $50 and (b) to do my best to eke out what my diet requires using frozen and canned items.  It's not an ideal thing but between the two we did much better in September with the grocery budget.  My final tally this month was spot on the old budget mark.  We are low on beef and will need to purchase that soon.  Thankfully August was our three pay period month so the extra payments will start to build up here and there and we can easily stock up.  I do not include the purchase of beef in my monthly grocery budget amount.  We've always 'found' that money in unexpected savings, in extra half payments that are not needed for bills, or survey/Swag gift card amounts, so it is moved over to the beef fund.

I recently stocked up on chicken, and this time I skipped the purchase of breasts and cut up the whole birds myself.  Again, these were $.88 a pound at the discount grocery nearby.  I also found they carried a family pack of the turkey sausage patties we like so much.  They are packaged 18 to a package rather than 8 as they are at the major chain store, and the package of 18 costs only a little more than the 8 piece package full price, at the chain market.  I am still trying to limit us but not as stringently as I did when it cost us so much more per package.

I am no longer serving meatless meals.  I have to 'budget' my carbohydrates each day and I find it easier to just eat a small portion of meat rather than finagle the menu hard to adjust for the carbohydrates that make up meatless meals.

I managed a small stock up on paper products and laundry detergents and a few canned items.  It's a little bit at a time at the moment, but it's stocking up all the same.

Medical needs necessitated finding extra room in our budget, as well.  Fortunately I discovered that Publix Supermarkets offers many common prescriptions for a very low price or FREE.  My diabetic drug is free.  I discovered by accident that John's blood pressure medicines can also be gotten for free.  Essentially the store charges the insurance company the same as any drug store, but the co-pay amount is waived as a courtesy to the customer on the most commonly prescribed items.  I pay $3 a month for the coumadin.  John agreed to swap over his prescriptions and we now pay something like $4 for his medications each month, a savings of $25 a month to us.  Since my supplies cost us about $30 a month it balances out.

While my first diabetic supplies were purchased via prescriptions from the drugstore, I was shocked to find they and my medications were nearly $150.  When I ran out of test strips at the end of the first week (I was required to test four times a day at first) I asked to purchase 100 strips for the glucometer I had received...$130 for 100...I declined to purchase them.  Only a few each month were covered by insurance.

Thanks to the diabetic counselors at the hospital I was aware of the great prices on Walmarts ReliOn Glucometer($20) and diabetic test strips (100/$17).  I also purchase lancets from Walmart.  I use online services to order and get free shipping, so it's more than worth my while. I make my own alcohol prep wipes to use here at home, cutting a paper towel into strips and then into swab sized portions.  I do keep a few purchased alcohol prep pads on hand to carry with me, but I rarely need to test while away from home. It is a small savings, just $5 or so for two months supply.

My first doctor visit was all out of pocket and that is because I chose to change the doctor assigned to me to one of my choice.  My first visit was scheduled out of necessity prior to the start of July when insurance would have covered the visit. I had to have a doctor monitoring my coumadin therapy and John and I agreed we'd rather start right out with this doctor than swap after the first visit with the assigned doctor.  It was a cost we were willing to pay and pay we did.

John had to have some dental work done during this quarter.  His dentist sent him to an orthodontic surgeon.  Happily we discovered that the little dental insurance policy we've been paying extra for each month covered the bulk of surgery costs.  The insurance refunded us as the surgeon required payment up front.  That money was put right back into savings.  And  a couple of weeks later we received notice that they'd paid a portion of the original dentist visit as well.  Our out of pocket there was low enough we were able to pay it from our regular account funds.

All in all, we've paid a lot of medical stuff out of pocket for doctor/hospital expenses thus far.  There are a lot more bills processing.  We save in a few places and spend it in a few others.  It's balanced out, I guess.

I am now on decreased diabetic medication  and using supplements.  I purchase these in bulk from various sources.  One supplement the doctor wanted me to take was $34 for a month's supply.  I discovered that it was a derivative from another product and the less processed product contained 50% of the extract he wished for me to take.  We agreed I'd order those and take double the daily dosage.  My out of pocket for that each month is $8.  It was a substantial savings.  I have a new list of more supplements he suggested, but these may be added as we can afford them.  The current supplements are working very well indeed with the eating plan and my activity level.

I made it through summer with the bulk of the clothes I had in Spring, although I was shrinking steadily.  I purchased five tops for fall since I'd lost so much weight and none of my summer tops fit, two pairs of sandals for next summer (which I can use here throughout the early autumn days as well) and two purses for less than $150.  I needed the shirts and shoes.  I found as I lost weight that some of my shoes no longer fit, either!  The shoes were 70% off and the purses were $18 for the two.  I paid for the new wardrobe items with personal allowances.  I have since purchased a new pair of jeans (two sizes smaller) for which I paid $16, using a partial Pay Pal credit from a survey to lower the cost to that amount.  Katie also gifted me another pair of jeans, a size smaller than these so I feel I'm covered for the next 20 pounds.

I've begun a new series for fall and the wardrobe options will decrease as the season goes on but thus far I've shown a number of outfits using only 5 or 6 pieces of clothing.  At present I am still wearing summer clothes, the ones that were formerly rather snug, with the new jeans.

We've had a very frustrating time with internet in the past three months, constantly dropping us offline, outages sometimes lasting 15 minutes or longer, etc.  It's made doing surveys and swag bucks almost impossible and has taken me nearly three months to earn a $25 Pay Pal gift card.

I have earned about $15 a month with Pinecone research and NFS but it's been slow earnings on all accounts with the internet dropping off suddenly and not returning until a survey was no longer available.  I've not even been able to log Coke points into MyCokeRewards, except just enough to keep my account active.

The booth has had small earnings.  Enough to cover two months rent and nearly cover it a third.  I've had no room for new items on the shelves, so I've skipped thrifting expeditions and any new items that go in are moved from home,  things I no longer wish to use.  I am well within my $30 a month limit and most months I don't use those funds at all. 

Back to the internet issue, we've contacted several entities and apparently our phone service 'owns' this area for lifetime provision of  DSL services.  Someone apparently was aware that this was going to be a very big deal for the phone company many years ago and locked it in as their exclusive territory.   We'd asked to 'lose' our land line but we are required to keep it as long as we have DSL service and get no break on that.  We don't rent our land line phone, so there was no savings to be had in that.

Frustrated by phone/internet woes, we came back around to satellite TV services.  A friend kindly sent me her Roku to use on my TV...My son told us we had to have an hdmi port to use.  Ours was blown by lightning within a month of getting the television and we use an alternate port, which means we can't use any type of streaming content on our TV.  John was determined to change satellite TV providers simply because the low introductory rates were so awesome.  I called DirecTv and asked what they could do to reduce my costs and keep me as a customer.  My initial contact suggested a 6 month $5 'good customer' discount.  That wasn't nearly enough to suit me.  We looked at the options of changing packages and made a second phone call and found  we were only going to save $10 more on a change of packages.  We were still a long way away from those great introductory rates.

I refused to give up and asked to speak to a manager.  I was straightforward with her, telling her how pleased I'd been with their service and how long we'd been a customer (18 years). I told her I wanted to stay with them and asked her to work with me.  For my troubles we ended up saving $35 a month, were able to get an additional $10/mo discount for combining our At&t account with our DirecTV account (now the same holding company) and got NFL and SEC channels for free as courtesy on their part.  I agreed to keep using their services for one year only, at which time we can renegotiate. A savings of $50 for six months, of $45 dollars for six more months and a $325 value bonus free?  Yes, please!

And finally we contacted a satellite internet service.  We found their pricing competitive.  After talking with representatives from the company we agreed to contract with them for two years.  Our savings is small, just about $5 a month BUT we haven't been dropped off the service even once since it was installed. The company waived installation and activation fees (over $300 savings there). We decided to rent the equipment rather than purchase it.  In two years we'll see where we stand but financially we felt laying out another big chunk of money just wasn't what we wanted to do.  Saving the start up fees more than offsets equipment rental for two years. And since we are saving a little money over DSL and land line phone we're okay with that.

As my energy has returned I've expended lots of time and effort on the two porches.  At this writing I've just finished the bulk of the floor painting for the front porch and hope to finish that off finally when weather is less wet, as well as the decorating part.  Most all of the work I've done on the porches has been done using things we had already on hand.  I purchased 1 gallon of gray floor paint and 3 cans of red spray paint for my front porch chairs for a total of $36 spent.  That came from our house maintenance fund.  All the cleaning and scraping and painting has been sheer elbow grease but that is at least free if not always in plentiful supply.  We'd originally hoped we'd have the front porch rebuilt by now but my carpenter brother has not found us on his list yet...It's just as well, since we can not justify the added expenditure at this time.

We had to have a welder repair the lawnmower deck and it cost us $10, but initially we thought we'd have to buy a new deck ($700).  John trimmed several trees in the main yard and my brother has trimmed many along the driveways, as he's planning to move a double wide from this property to another piece he owns.  So we haven't had to hire anyone to help with that task.

Any decorating done in house or on back porch or work in yard at present has all been done for minor amounts of money.  I bought 1 can of paint to paint the rocker and another can of spray paint to finish the cafe set on the back porch.  I spent $20 or less for that project, with leftovers to use elsewhere.  A great deal of what has been done in the house and on the porches involved using what we had, which happened to be a lot of odd lots of things, some of which were really old but by golly they were just fine and exactly to the drop what we needed to finish tasks.

Just as we headed into September a child needed some financial help and we were able to assist.  So whatever savings we put aside earlier this year are well and truly spent but we're managing to leave what we had prior to that alone otherwise.  We've slipped down a notch or two in our checking balance for a bit but holiday pay kicked in and gave it a booster shot back to a more acceptable level just in time.

So we've spent savings and we've made minor steps forward for every leap backwards, sigh.  John's county didn't even whisper a hint about raises this year and July passed by without any sort of cost of living adjustment and a notice that they were reducing uniform allowances.   Fortunately John too has lost weight and is able to wear pants he's kept in his dresser for a while.  They were brand new pants he'd never worn and they now fit him perfectly.  Overtime shifts are not even hinted at for us. Fortunately John worked Labor Day and that was the booster shot we needed to help us along.  Technically we've made less thus far this year than we did last year but we seem to stay steady.

All in all, we've survived.  We're not any further ahead at present, but we've hung in there and we're hanging in there.  God has been very gracious to us during this time.  Bills never show up without us finding a source to pay them from.  The savings we've managed astound us at times (free prescriptions? Waiving huge fees?  NFL Sunday ticket for FREE? C'mon!).  We have not been able to save at the same rate the past three months but we've saved about half  and under the circumstances that wows us each time we realize what it means.  I sat down the last weekend in September and redid our quarterly budget for the Fourth Quarter. I made a mistake last quarter that I found this quarter.  However, despite this, there is a small overage which will allow savings. I found even with a slight increase in two areas (grocery and a small increase to our allowances) we will have an appreciable amount to put into savings.  We're approaching the increased allowances cautiously. We'll see how it goes for the first month or six weeks but I think we can manage just fine.

We look hopefully towards the fourth and final quarter of this year. 


Lana said...

What a testimony of God's provision for those medical bills!

Leigh said...

Praise God for His provision! I know you were counting your dollars and much of your report was financial, but you've also given a fine lesson in counting blessings. I hope your renewed health continues and that your husband is able to get as many hours as you both would like him to have at work.

Anonymous said...

If you'd known what laid ahead for this year you might have found yourself fretting over it all. It happen, a little here and some there. Increases in things needed ,illness, family additions and even less salary but still God saw you through it as you have testified. He told us He would help us in big and little things and He surely does!! I let myself worry over retirement. Would we have enough actually? We do. My husband's work never gave him any cost of living raises. So after three years on Social Security we got our first one it was unexpected! By then too we knew we could live without it so the extra was just that..extra. :)
I truly do not know how you remember what happened each day to tell us here but I enjoy it all. The lessons learned by you have helped me too.
By the way that price of $1 a pound for the chicken breasts was fantastic! I cut up chickens too but never have gotten to a point that I feel completely confident in it. I look at the pictures of how to do it and somehow mine does not cut up looking so pretty! But it sure does taste good when cooked and on the table!!
With our health insurance we cannot switch pharmacies and such but still I have gotten many hints and ideas on how to save in so many other ways on our health costs as well as many other areas from your many posts.
I started a notebook a long time back to post the hints and recipes I find on yours and a few other women's blogs. Many blogs you can't find the information on when you want to find it again as there is no word index or archive feature so this sure helps to be able to check back on things I want to refer to! I remember Laine from Laine's Letters used to keep a notebook for all the herbal medicines and recipes and such she wanted to compile for their use from radio shows or other places. It sounded like a homemaker's notebook i wanted to keep too so I did. Sarah

Spicy Apple Cake - I FOUND IT!

While sorting though Mama's cookbooks the other day I came across a Family Circle magazine cookbook that looked familiar.  I brought...