Xfinity App

Over the years I’ve tended to use my phone only for texting and calling. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to take advantage of its many useful features. For example, I use the Chase app to deposit checks. I downloaded the Uber app last summer and have become a fan. Our daughter likes to play Words with Friends, so I downloaded that. I’ve got the King Soopers app, which helps me remember what coupons I’ve loaded to my profile. I even figured out how to play music on our Sonos via the Pandora app I downloaded to my phone. This also involved creating a playlist of Christmas songs on iTunes. I was very proud of myself!

More recently, I downloaded the Xfinity app. Though I usually check my emails when I’m at my desktop, it’s really convenient to be able to check them on my iPhone, especially when we’re out of town. But what I like the most about it is my ability to check for voicemails. I can even read the transcript from my iPhone. And delete it without the hassle of picking up the landline (yes, we still have one), punching in the code, listening to it, etc. etc. It’s so convenient!

New Drivers License

My new drivers license arrived yesterday. This time I was careful to wait until 2017 to get it. My birthday is at the beginning of March. Last time, my license was due to expire on my birthday in 2013 and, thinking I was being super organized, I applied for it in December 2012. They always expire on your birth date, five years from the current year. So, instead of expiring in March 2018, it expired on March of 2017. This time I’ll get five years out of it and it won’t expire until 2022.

I wasn’t able to renew online this time as I’d done that the last two times. So I had to go to the DMV – one of my least favorite things to do. However, I discovered that now you can schedule an appointment! How convenient. By doing so, you get into the fast line when you get there. It probably wouldn’t have mattered, as the office wasn’t busy at all. (Make note, Tuesdays at 1:30 appear to be a good time to go in.)

I made my appointment for 1:30 and arrived at 1:15 to register. I was back in my car by 1:31 with my temporary license. My new card arrived nine days later. Before putting it in my wallet I updated the records I keep on everything. And then I scanned and saved a copy of it.

The only bad part of the whole experience is that I have to say goodbye to the picture on my old license where I was a) 15 years younger, and b) smiling (you can’t show your teeth anymore due, I think, to facial recognition technology). I’m not very photogenic and it only gets worse the older I get. It was such a cute picture!! 🙁

Last Tuition Payment!

I made our last tuition payment the other day. Yee ha!!

Granted, the money continues to drain our bank account with her rent, living expenses, cell phone, etc. etc. etc. BUT we just made the final tuition payment for child number two in September. So, until recently, we were paying tuition for two kids.


Child number one has been independent for close to five years, about a year before our youngest started college and moved out.

Child number two graduated in December and started a good job in January. An “I can support myself” kind of job. He’s responsible for everything now. He’s even started paying us back for expenses racked up over the previous 6 1/2 years (yes – it was a long haul). I’m taking $100 out of every paycheck until we’re good. I haven’t bothered to put a number on it but this means we are no longer shelling out for gas or rent or utilities. And I’ve set up automatic monthly transfers to cover his share of our Verizon and auto insurance bills.

Child number three graduates in May. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and jinx anything. Graduating doesn’t guarantee getting a job providing self sufficiency. And getting a job isn’t the same as getting the right job or keeping a job. And, let’s face it, you’re never really out of the woods if you’re a parent. Bad stuff happens.

But good stuff happens, too, and you may as well celebrate it when it does!

2016 HDHP Summary

hdhpI posted a progress report on our 2016 HDHP numbers back in September.

At the time our total YTD cost stood at $2,770, well under my goal of keeping it below $5,000. But I wasn’t counting our chickens before they hatched.

Our total costs ended up at $3,233! I have to keep in mind that Jay’s company seeded our HSA account with $1,500. Not counting this, the cost to us was still under $5,000. This year the company is seeding the account with $1,100. I’m not sure if there will be any more such seed money after 2017. 🙁

It’s a little early in the year to look where we’re at. I know our premiums will come to $2,078 and the HSA has already been seeded with the $1,100. I’d love to come in under $5,000 again. We’ll see how much it costs to get our daughter’s wisdom teeth out. She’s 22 and graduates in May, but will probably stay on our health plan until she’s 26. Our oldest son, at 27, is on his company’s plan now. Our middle child is 25 and will switch over to his company’s plan before the end of the year. Once our daughter is 26 our premiums will be reduced significantly (by $650) because we’ll switch from “employee and family” to “employee and spouse” status. And our prescriptions and doctor visits should be much lower since she accounts for about half of all our medical expenses. That is, of course, assuming our health stays the same – something that certainly isn’t guaranteed. In fact, it’s almost certain not to happen. 🙁

The 4-Hour Workweek

I’m reading an exceptional book right now, Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

It’s kind of mind blowing to be honest. And it makes me a little sad. Because Jay and I are the people who’ve lived the kind of life he advocates escaping – the life of 9 to 5 with a “big” retirement at the end. Jay especially. And his union job isn’t one that lends itself, in any way, shape or form, to the telecommuting strategy Timothy describes. Besides, we’re almost at retirement age whereas this book is most valuable for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

Despite this, there’s still a ton of value in reading it. It’s not too late to implement some of his plans/strategies even if I really like our “small” life. There’s no question that it can be improved and I agree so wholeheartedly with many of his observations and opinions. I feel like a kindred spirit, which is hilarious as our lives couldn’t be more different.

Plus, he’s funny as hell.

I’m getting it for my brother. And probably for the kids for Christmas. They’ve already made it clear they have no intention of following in our footsteps! 😉 It makes me a little nervous, because the lifestyle Ferriss advocates is SO different from ours and I’m not sure how achievable it actually would be.

Finding Our Next Home

the pinesThree years ago I posted that I thought I’d found our next neighborhood. We weren’t ready to move then. And we still aren’t quite ready to move. But, I’ve kept my eye on this area. I have an alert set on (an MLS site available to the public) so that any time a property in this neighborhood comes on the market I know immediately. Trouble is, only two units have come on the market via the MLS and one via FSBO (for sale by owner). I got into all three and none of them came close to meeting the criteria we need for our next house.

I actually have a list of the criteria (of course):

  • 3+ bedrooms
  • 2+ bathrooms (preferably 3)
  • Work room
  • 2+ car garage
  • Office
  • Main floor master
  • Main floor laundry
  • Soaking tub
  • Patio/deck
  • Big enough to host family dinners

So, I was starting to think that maybe I shouldn’t have any expectations about this particular area, especially since there are only 16 units and the majority of them have floor plans similar to the ones I’d already seen. In fact, based on assessor data in the county database, I was pretty sure that only six of the 16 “might” meet our criteria and, of those, only four had preferable locations.

So, rather than give up, I sent letters to the six homeowners about two weeks ago. A week later I got a call from a lovely woman who said she was thinking of taking a year long, round the world tour in the spring of ’18 and would we be interested in renting. I said I wasn’t sure renting would work, but I’d love to see her place, if she didn’t mind showing it to me.

I saw it today and it meets every single one of our criteria. There’s even a small community pool just 50 feet from the back porch – something I’d dearly love, but didn’t list as a “has to have”. The property isn’t perfect. It needs updating. While nice, and reasonably big, it’s much more modest than our current home. And I’m not sure that Jay’s new truck will fit in the garage. (I’m not sure it’ll fit in most garages.) But I’m confident that we could be happy there, especially since I feel we’d do a lot to customize it and make it into something just right for us.

I’m so relieved! Not that we’re going to end up with this property, but that I know there are probably four of them that would fit the bill. So, it hasn’t been wasted energy or hopes. In fact, the woman even mentioned that she might just decide to stay in the South Seas after her tour – in which case she’d want to sell. 🙂

What a gal. She must be at least 80!

Getting Rid of More Stuff

craigslistI’ve posted a number of times this past year about getting rid of stuff. I’ve pared my closet down even more. There aren’t any old or unwanted items in my pantry, fridge or freezer (well, hardly any). My files are much lighter. I’m ruthless about getting rid of stuff. I’m even happy when some things break, because then there’s no reason, excuse or justification to keep it!

I’ve also posted before about selling stuff on Craigslist. Last time I posted we had a Suburban, a twin bed set, furniture that we acquired with a foreclosure, and a computer desk that came with our current house. All sold. This past week I sold a pair of tap shoes ($10), our old cordless phone set ($10), a United lounge pass ($10), my old ergonomic keyboard ($5) and a tapestry ($500). The tapestry we bought on Craigslist for $500 about eight months ago and, right from the start, we weren’t happy with it. I posted it a few months ago, knowing it would take awhile to sell. I just kept renewing it, never dropped the price and, finally, got a call from someone looking for a tapestry. They offered $400, but I didn’t take it. Selling it meant we had to get it down (a hassle) and then we’d have a big empty wall. So, I wasn’t that motivated. Two days later they called back to say they’d pay the asking price. And they were super nice people.

In between those two periods, we sold goose decoys, an old kerosene heater, an old Maxima, a pair of armchairs, a pair of Birkenstocks, a pair of Finn Comfort sandals, a brass chandelier, an old computer monitor, an inflatable boat that came from one of our rentals, and a patio heater.

That’s a LOT of stuff!

HDHP Update

hdhpI posted specifics and predictions about our new High Deductible Health Plan earlier this year and am repeating much of it here, but with YTD results.

Our annual premium has gone from $8,946 to $2,783, a reduction of $6,164. The company seeded our HSA with $1,500 and we are contributing $258.33 pretax per paycheck to fully fund the HSA to the $7,750 maximum. Under this new plan we can also earn up to $50 if we both complete a health survey (done) and $40/month by participating in the fitness reimbursement program – which we’ve been doing religiously.

Our annual max out-of-pocket spending for the family is $7,000, so it’s pretty much a sure thing that we will save money on this new plan. Last year our total cost was just shy of $11,000 – but that number was inflated because we jammed as much as we could (doctor visits and prescriptions) into the last couple of months of the year. This year, the most it should be is around $7,753 (assuming we maximize the benefits mentioned earlier). My goal will be to keep it under $5,000, however I know that even one emergency would change that. So, I won’t keep my hopes too high. Between injuries and asthma getting out of control, we usually have 1-2 ER visits/year

At this point, our total YTD cost stands at $2,770. There’s a very good chance we’ll be well under that $5,000 goal. We might even keep it under $3,500. Fingers crossed. Assuming there are no surprises, I’m planning to schedule our daughter’s wisdom teeth removal in 2017. If we do incur substantial expenses in the next few months, I’ll be scrambling to schedule it before the end of the year – not always possible with short notice, of course.

We have about $3,300 accumulated in our HSA and I’m still planning to fully fund it again next year, and every year that Jay’s working, so that we can use it into retirement.

So far, so good. Fingers crossed. Knock on wood, etc.

Social Security Reports

my social securityThe government used to send you “your Social Security Statement” every year. No more. Now they might send one every three years, if you haven’t established an online profile with them Once you set that up they stop sending reports altogether. My last report is from 2010.

Every year I log on to check to see that my earnings record has been correctly updated and to see what my new benefit estimates are. Trouble is, I can’t compare year to year like I used to with the paper statements. The website shows you current info, not past info.

You can, however, print and/or save your current statement. That way you can maintain a history. I’m missing our 2011-2014 statements because I didn’t think to do this. But, from now on I won’t forget. I’ll be able to see how our earnings affect our benefits from year to year.

Rethinking Social Security Plan

my social securityI’ve posted about Social Security a couple of times before but, after reading a book, have recently begun to change our plans. The book is Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security. I highly recommend it.

In the past I’ve looked at Social Security from a break even perspective. The book shows you why, instead of worrying about missing out on money in case you die before the break even point, you should look at it as insurance in case you do live a long time. Life insurance and home insurance are not based on any break even calculation. We buy it to protect ourselves in the event of a catastrophe. If you can afford to wait, Social Security should be viewed no differently. It is insurance in the event we live a really long time, which can be catastrophic to your ability to make ends meet.

So, I think we’ll be waiting to file for benefits. You get 70% more if you wait until 70 to file vs. filing early at 62. 🙂