Friday, January 28, 2011

Saving Money is Fun...and Other Fallacies!

Living on a budget is important to retirement date...I am a miserable failure! I am addicted to Chicos and any place that sells children's clothes. I do try to check sales and stores like TJMaxx, but I still spend too much for an old retired girlfriend. There are a few tips...Chicos has a passport club that automatically gives you 5% off all your purchases and some days even more. You also get coupons that apply to purchases.  When you shop their sales and use the coupons and the passport discount, you can get cool stuff cheap! Plus their clothes are designed by real people so even if you're a bit square (physically not emotionally!) you can still wear things that don't look like your grandmother gave them to you! Coupons for department stores are a source of free money...keep your eyes open in the Sunday papers for deals! Another tip is to cash in your American Express or other credit card points for generic gift cards that can be used to buy things! AMX points can get you $50 gift cards that will go a long way to buying things that aren't on your budget! You can also give them as gifts.

Now for the grandchildren!  Each year I set a budget for birthdays and Christmas for the kiddos...and do pretty well for those two holidays.  It's the spontaneous purchases when I gravitate first to the children's department in any store I enter and the other holidays like Valentines, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Ground Hog Day and 50 other major and minor occasions for which I am compelled to purchase presents! I can't give you any tips other than never enter a store again or at least shop the sales racks first. I do try to stay away from toys as I never know what they already have unless I get their Toys R Us Christmas list...that worked great!  I could pick things they wanted and didn't already have.

I'm also trying to write a closet plan...a closet plan lists the things that I have and the things that I need to make the things I have work.  Like more pants.  Last year it was tops and jackets.  I can't seem to get organized.  I also need to move the things I can't wear because I still haven't lost that 10 or 20 pounds.  By moving, it needs to be to eBay but it may just be to my storage closet in the attic.  A girl can dream! You can sell high end stuff on eBay without too much trouble.  I had several Brahmin purses that went really high.  A closet plan should be a realistic plan based on what you really wear in retirement...not what looks really cute.  An Ellen Tracy suit does not really fit in at WalMart, regardless of how great it looks. Let's face it...when you are retired you don't need as much...and if you have a closet plan you may actually only buy things you need and would wear.

I think shopping for clothes, shoes and grandchildren stuff has been the hardest thing for me to control. So...if you have any tips besides just say NO, let me know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reward Cards and Free Stuff!

We went to see a great movie today...No Strings Attached....and yes, it's a silly little romantic comedy but it was Woody's day to pick! I really enjoyed it too...we got in free and with our Regal Reward card (, we got a free soft drink. Periodically we get a free ticket on our Regal Rewards card but we have a more reliable way to score free movies. Now, you did we get in free? We use our American Express to pay bills and buy any big ticket items and use the points to get free movie tickets and gift cards for dinners at our favorite restaurants. The AMX for bill pay came for convenience when we were always on the road and bills still needed to be paid...those that would take AMX earn us points and the rest come directly out of our checking account. We use AMX but almost all the cards have a points option. We've bought carpet, cruises and, in Woody's case, a pickup truck on our AMX cards!

We started the points thing when I had a corporate card and spent even more money than we do now. In fact, years ago we used Diner's Club points, our then corporate card, to buy Savings Bonds! Which come to think of it have probably gotten really close to maturity....hmmm....wonder if we have enough for a cruise? But back to freebies...who wouldn't want free stuff. Many of our favorite "survival" restaurants offer coupons. By survival, I mean those restaurants like Shane's Rib Shack, Sam's Sports Bar, China Buffet and lots of others where you eat when you don't want to cook. If you watch the local paper, coupons through the mail, and magazines, you'd be surprised at how many buy one get one coupons or 10% off or "two for one" deals are out there. By using coupons and watching for special offers, we haven't had to quit eating out in retirement. One of our favorite places is Red Lobster and we just scored two $25 gift cards for a mere 5,000 AMX points! Can't wait to use them.

We also have reward cards for my favorite vice...casinos! For years we didn't get those lovely cards that fit into the slot machines and passed up tons of free offers. Since I'm going to gamble and even occasionally win, we signed up for the cards and now we get free offers all the time. We saw Miranda Lambert in concert with free hotel...and we just got back from our trip to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl and stopped off for two nights at the Harrah's casino in Biloxi free! Now Woody says our hotel rooms were about $130 for the two nights which is what I lost, but the rooms were still worth more than that so it's still a cost savings!!

And of course, my personal favorite, 5% off at Publix ( on Wednesday for Senior Citizens! That discount, coupled with coupons (when I remember to take them) lowers our food bill...we do love to cook now and saving here and there always helps so I can tackle exotic recipes like beer butt chicken and omelets. Remember I traveled for years and forgot how to cook! tip for today is look for rewards cards, coupons, special offers and discount days and you'll be surprised at how much you can still do or get, even when the stock market tanks in your retirement!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Focus!

Are you ready for retirement? I've been sort of retired now for 4 years and have learned more about retirement than I ever thought possible. When I started this blog, my focus was getting ready for retirement and then progressing through retirement. I have to admit, it's been a blast! But now it's time to share with you what I've learned. The most important thing is don't retire at the same time the stock market is tanking! If you do choose to retire in a down market, plan on working at least part time...I've edited medical papers for non-English speaking authors, written and re-written web sites, written articles, sold a few photos and, of course, did a little healthcare consulting for the big bucks! Woody and I also worked in a gallery and high end gift store in Montana for 6 months when we thought we wanted a gallery of our own. Trust me, after two weeks we decided we didn't like retail and weren't too sure we liked people, especially tourists! We also tried the workamping life in our RV and spent a miserable six weeks checking people into an RV park in Florida! If you have an RV, there are tons of jobs that are fun...just be selective. We'll talk more about this in a later post!

So...while I'll still update you on our fun things, I'm going to sprinkle in some good advice too. The first piece of advice is related to financial all the money you can and be prepared to use principal since earning interest is not in your future and don't even think that the stock market is your friend. Or work part time! You'll be bored anyway if you don't have lots of hobbies or you're comfortable being a couch potato. You can only travel so much which is what everyone says they want to do when they retire! Just try to find jobs that are flexible and can travel with you. And sell all the stuff you've collected over the years on eBay since your kids are probably like our daughter who told us to quit bringing our crap to her! Oh woman's treasures are another woman's crap!