Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Of Weather, Dogs, Budgets, Stir-Craziness, and Taxes

At 5:15 a.m., it’s 93 degrees on the back porch, and overcast. Was going to jump in the pool but then heard thunder and thought better of it. Turned around, came inside, fed the dogs, thought better of the better thought, ran outside, and plunged in the pool, thunder rumbling through the skies.

Leapt out, grabbed the hose, watered the withering plants, and flew back inside.

Now at least my hair is wet and braided, which will provide some convenient personal air conditioning for the next several hours.

Damn near 95 degrees at 5 in the morning means no exercise for the dogs. Cassie, with her thick coat and lion-like mane, has never been able to withstand that kind of heat for more than half a mile. Ruby probably could, but it might not be great for her. The prospect doesn’t thrill the human, either.

It means I don’t get any exercise, either. Could do some physical therapy exercises and yoga, but that ain’t the same as two brisk miles. Oh well.

§

Y’know, in all the years I’ve fed my dogs Real Food, I’ve never kept track of how long a batch of cooked meat, veggies, and starch lasts. Probably scared: I don’t wanna know how much this is costing me!!

However, we now have a hint. On July 15, I made a Costco run that included a giant package of frozen dog veggies ($6.49), a lifetime supply of chicken thighs ($12.64), and a massive amount of pork ($35.55), for a total of $54.68

Divided the pork into three packages. ONE of those lasted 10 days, when cooked with a sweet potato (on hand) and a few handsful of frozen veggies. So that means the $36 worth of pork alone, in theory, should last the dogs for a month.

It’s almost the end of the month. I’ve cooked 1/3 of the pork, half of the chicken, about half the frozen veggies, and embellished the results with about one cup of rice and two sweet potatoes. We have 1½ Tupperware-type containers of chicken-based dog food left — more than enough to last past the 31st. The first chicken cooking will cover 10 days. AND we have the other half of the packaged chicken thighs, still in the freezer: another 10 days! The remaining pork will make another 20 days’ worth of dog food.

30 days: pork
20 days: chicken
50 days: total days covered by Costco run

That means $55 and change is feeding two dogs for almost two months.

Holy sh!t.  I had no idea  feeding them actual, real food was that economical.

§

I’ve been adding a few bites of kibble (Whole Foods’ house brand) to both dogs’ meals, because I’ve not been confident that my dog food recipe sufficed for a puppy. (And of course Cassie will not put up with Ruby getting anything that she doesn’t get.) But now that Ruby is over two years old, she can go wholly on real food without risk. I think we’ll switch her over to 100% real food, which will cut the length of time the supply lasts by about 50%. But that should be tolerable. Especially since we won’t be buying expensive kibble.

Cassie is now 10 years old, and she’s incredibly healthy. You would never know she’s advanced in age. Her teeth are good. The terrible dog breath she had when she came to the Funny Farm is gone. No aches and pains seem to bother her. She races around the backyard with Ruby — and believe me, despite the short legs (or maybe because of them) a corgi goes like a rocket. Her coat is gorgeous. She eats well. And when the weather is tolerable, she can walk a mile at a fast clip with no problem.

My son’s dog, who gets nothing but the very best high-end kibble, has red swollen gums and bad breath. He obviously needs an expensive dental job. My son can’t afford that and so continues in denial. And (btw) that dog gets the doggywobbles every time he turns around. A vet claims this is because of a congenital intestinal problem, but that speculation has never been proven; one wonders if the issue would resolve in the absence of commercial dog food.

Cassie and Ruby eat everything in sight, and they never, ever get sick. Doggy diarrhea is rarely seen in these parts, unless one of them finds something weird to eat outdoors.

I first discovered this dawg wellness phenomenon when I started cooking Real Food for the German shepherd and the greyhound, during the late Chinese melamine fiasco. The difference in Anna, the decrepit German shepherd, was startling. She had been so crippled with age that she could barely haul herself off the floor. Shortly, she was chasing her ball around the backyard again, something she hadn’t been able to do in many months.

§

The budget is looking pretty good despite some small overruns.

Last month, on the first, I bought a $50 Costco cash card, solely to buy gas. The first tank of gas lasted until just a few days ago. I now have a full tank, which will probably last until the middle of next month — especially if I opt next month’s junket to Avondale. So apparently in my dotage, it’s costing nothing like $50 a month to buy gas.

As we’ve seen, I indulged myself with a gardening purchase (the composter), which would have led to a budget overrun without the other small surprises. But that may pay for itself this winter when I use it on the proposed vegetable pots.

One reason the budget is so tight at this time of year is that the utility bills are astronomical in this heat. In the winter, though, they’ll drop to almost nothing: both electric and water will fall into pocket change category.

The reason I don’t allow the power company to prorate the electric bill is that I like having a lot of extra budgetary play in the winter, when I want to buy Christmas presents and have to pony up money for church donations. I wouldn’t feel I could afford those things if I had to pay for part of the summer bills all year round. Plus it’s a good idea to be eminently aware of how much air conditioning actually costs you at any given time…

§

We’re basically heat-bound here. I feel like I’ve been in jail all summer. Choir is out during the summertime. I suppose I could go to Church on Sundays and socialize a bit…but organized religion per se is not really my thing. I commune best with the Ineffable in nature, not under a roof.  😉

With recreational shopping out (permanently, it seems), hiking out because of the heat, and the cultural scene in estivation, there’s really nothing to do here but read the news on the computer and work. Hence: a 400-page book in draft, in a matter of days. Amazingly enough.

Thank God for the swimming pool. This summer was the first in two years that I’ve been allowed to get in the water. It’s a life-saver.

Wish it had some kind of shade screen over the top, so I could swim in the heat of the day. When I was young, dumb, and didn’t give a damn, I used to drop into the pool several times a day, just to keep cool. Now…not so much. Too scared about melanoma.

Adventures in Medical Science do that to you: create fear.

The weather this summer has been a real bear, and it looks like this is going to be a permanent thing. My son figures the Valley will remain livable until the mid-2020s, which is about when we’ll run out of the water the Central Arizona Project has been quietly pumping back into the aquifer. But water or no, if this kind of heat continues, the low desert really will become uninhabitable.

§

He’s talking about moving to Oregon, if his employer will allow him to work from home — as apparently is in the cards. I don’t know if I could afford to live there…the taxes, I fear, are too high.

SmartAsset.com calls Oregon “moderately friendly” for retirees. It’s a little hard to tell, though, because they don’t seem to take sales taxes into consideration. In Arizona, sales taxes are around 10% — depends on the municipality, because some cities tax food and some don’t. Property taxes are apparently higher because the cost of real estate is higher, and Oregon has no sales tax. It does have an estate tax, starting at $1 million — that presumably would not apply when I croak over. Or I could just start maxing out transfers of assets to my son before I die.

If you believe SmartAsset, it looks like Oregon is comparable to Arizona. In Oregon, you supposedly will pay $1,598 on a $40,000 income. In Arizona, the figure is $480. Huh…how do you suppose they have the chutzpah to put those two in the same category? They can’t possibly be figuring the sales taxes in there. Sales tax amounts to hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year here!

Must say that the prospect of moving across the country doesn’t appeal. I’d have to sell all my furniture, since the cost of a moving van is pretty prohibitive. Once there, I’d have to refurnish with Ikea junk or spend months searching for replacements in estate sales. Ugh! Not much fun, either way.

Heh… In the “very tax friendly” category, SmartAsset lists Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming. :-0 Talk about “out of the frying pan, into the fire!” None of those are places I would jump to live in.

Hm. Ordinary unexceptional “tax friendly”:

Colorado is considered tax-friendly: that’s interesting. I could stand to live in Colorado. None of the others appeal, though, with the possible exception of Idaho and maybe New Hampshire.

Colorado: $1,852 taxes on 40 grand. Idaho: $837. New Hampshire: $0.

Zero? What are they smoking over there at SmartAssets??

Ah: here’s the explanation: SmartAssets’ figures don’t include property taxes. Well, hell. Then their calculations mean exactly nothing. It’s the property taxes that do you in when you’re retired!

Hilarious.

All these gingery calculations you see in the media about where to retire on a shoestring are pretty silly. None of them compare apples with oranges or take all the factors into consideration. For example: how much is it going to cost you to fly back and forth to visit grandchildren? If a state doesn’t have property taxes, how is it paying for its infrastructure? You can be sure the Tooth Fairy isn’t covering the cost of roads and schools…

So, let’s move to Mexico or Colombia, hm?

Those schemes fail to mention that Medicare doesn’t cover you when you’re out of the country. And as sad as America’s healthcare system is looking, our doctors and hospitals are still a lot better than what you’ll find in most of those “affordable” countries. Assuming you survive, say, a stroke or a heart attack, how much will it cost to fly you to the US for quality care? And how much more will your care cost you after medical attention has been delayed for the period it takes you to get transportation back to Medicare Heaven?

Welp. I don’t know if Arizona will remain livable for the remainder of my assigned years. If it doesn’t, I suppose Oregon or Colorado would suffice.

Wherever my son goes…I probably would follow him. Oregon, though: that would be good.

 

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17 Comments

  1. MAN…95 degrees at 5AM?….crazy. As for moving, I don’t know if I would follow the kids….Guess it’s a personal choice. But sell all your stuff….de-camp….re-establish residence and get new stuff…..that’s a tall order but it would be an adventure.
    AND just a “heads up” on the auto front. As I recall you have a car with some age on it and it continues to serve you well. WELL my “Dear Mother” was exiting the grocery store this week and was stopped waiting to merge into traffic and a gal backed right into the side of her truck . She called me and I went to the scene and sure enough the lady ran right into the passenger door…BIG TIME. The lady didn’t want to get the insurance company involved and offered to pay out of pocket which DM was fine with. The damage came to almost $1500 and I consulted with DM’s insurance broker before we accepted payment. Because DM’s vehicle is “vintage” the insurance company could/would take a look at the vehicle and compare the “book value” and just decide to pay “book” for (total) the car, which in DM’s case would be about $850 and about 1/2 the estimate for repair….and this is legal. So thru no fault of her own my DM would have lost her only form of transportation despite the fact that she had FULL COVERAGE and be given $850 as the remedy to make her whole. So the Broker advised us to work with the gal and accept her payment. We are undecided at this point whether to fix the vehicle or take the money, sell the damaged vehicle and buy another car. Just thought you would want to be aware…..Drive Safely….

    • On the follow-the-kid front: Yeah, all things being equal, I’d rather stay here where my friends, my hair stylist, a brilliant veterinarian, WonderAccountant, and Young Dr. Kildare are.

      But…

      Truth to tell, the climate is becoming unlivable here. It’s been happening steadily since shortly after I moved to Arizona in 19-and-aught-62. But over the past 8 or 10 years, it has accelerated. And it’s continued steadily and consistently enough that it’s evident this is not just an occasional flukish summer and an occasional no-frost winter. It’s a clear, long-term and probably permanent change.

      When that becomes obvious even to the right-wing nut cases who run this place, the bottom will fall out of real estate again. Only this time it won’t be a “bust” between “booms.” No property owner who’s here when that happens will be able to get enough money out of their homes to buy something comparable — or ANYTHING — anyplace else. Mark my words: real estate here will be worthless, and tens of thousands of homeowners will essentially be ruined.

      I think the time is coming when it will be a matter of getting out while the getting’s good. And when that time comes, the “getting’s good” period won’t last long.

  2. Oh! What an annoyance! That’s EXACTLY what I’m afraid of, driving around the homicidal streets of Phoenix: some moron will crash the perfectly fine, eminently functional Dog Chariot.

    Thank god your mom is OK. The idiot could have crashed the driver’s side door. Or shoved her into some other moving vehicle.

    My son has told me that’s what will happen with the Dog Chariot: even a minor fender bender, and the insurance company will consider it “totaled.” It’s not worth very much now, according to Kelly BB. But…it’s worth a lot to me: every month it moves is a month I don’t have to pay for a new car! The thing is saving me 20 or 30 grand…and therefore, imho, that IS its value.

    Dang! How lucky that the perp was willing to pay to fly under the radar! I hope the body shop can repair the truck…heh! Maybe even make it better?

    Remember to get the woman to pay for the cost of a rental for your mom!

    • That’s what happened to Abby and Tim a while back, if you’ll recall: A careless driver hit them and wrecked the car I’d given them when they moved to Phoenix. It wasn’t a great ride — 2001 Chevy Cavalier — but it was to have been good enough for another four or five years.

      I don’t personally own a car now but I have to say whenever I drive DF’s vehicle I’m afraid someone will bump, skid or slide into me.

      • Oh Crud! I forgot about that….just about the same crazy thing happened to them. I tell ya, with the cost of owning and maintaining an automobile you might just be the smart one. After meeting with DM’s insurance guy and he explaining that despite the fact that she pays for FULL COVERAGE the insurance company’s total obligation to “make her whole” was in the neighborhood of $850….which is about what her yearly premium is…. It certainly gave me a new perspective on insurance….

      • Aggravating! It’s pretty par for the course here, though… People drive like lunatics in these parts. That’s why I want a large, heavy vehicle: two layers of steel between me and my fellow homicidal drivers.

        I hafta say, if two people don’t NEED two cars, it’s hard to understand why every household has to have a car for every occupant. If one person isn’t driving to work, there’s no reason why s/he can’t drive the other person to the office and then have the vehicle for daytime errands. Or the other way around: let the commuter commute and save the schlepping for non-work hours.

  3. Rental???? That’s not how DM rolls….Thank God I was there….she said she felt bad for the lady….sheeeez who knows what might have happened. Sadly …we can’t find a door, because of the age, new or used any where. We MAY be able to repair it. I just worry about her driving around in this “bucket of bolts”. But she is reluctant to buy another car/truck. IMHO she too suffers from “bag-lady syndrome” AND she is uncertain how long she will want/be allowed to drive. But like you every day she drives this “vintage vehicle” it saves her big money. Quite the puzzle….

    • Oh, ducky. So that means YOU were in the passenger seat? Augh! Well, I hope you’re OK.

      Yeah: there’s the next issue one of the neighbors brought up about the Chariot: Bust it and you can’t fix it because THEY DON’T MAKE THE PARTS ANYMORE.

      Well. They still make mules. I’m going to love riding to the grocery store on Ole Jenny. Whoa back boy and gee! by the lamb!

      WTF. You see what I mean by wanting to follow my son wherever he goes. One needs one’s son at hand in one’s dotage. Assuming the son has better control of his marbles than you do…

      A little bag-ladying makes perfect sense to my mind, if you don’t know how much longer you’re going to be driving. What? Go out and spend 10 or 20 grand for something you can use all of a year or two? Augh.

    • Jestjack, have you tried online? It seems to me, from comments you’ve made on here, that you would do that research too. But since we have a “u pull r parts”, and at least one other near us, we do a lot of “recovery”. And I have seen some sites that search junkyards across the country and give lists. Just a thought.

      • Hi Mary, The internet is a wonderful thing…..AND while getting the estimate at the body shop the guy went onto two websites that they subscribe to look for the door. Both sites were for junk ….” I mean recycling”…. yards. NADA….A bit alarming. His estimate was based on a newer vehicle(by a couple of years) that the shop recently worked on and had to purchase a new door from a “re-manufacturer”. The search continues….BUT I’m thinking we might just have to work with what we have and fix the door. DM is almost 80…recently widowed….has several health issues….and really doesn’t drive that much. BUT my thought is she likes/wants the option/freedom to go somewhere if she wants when she wants….I get it. Aaaand doesn’t see the point in putting a lot of money in “new” wheels that she will get little use out of….Fair to point out DM’s ride is 25 years old….

  4. Actually, I wasn’t in the truck….I prefer not ride with DM. I was at home and she called me and explained she was …”coming out of the grocery store parking lot and a lady…”bumped” …into her”…. But I could hear this gal in the background imploring DM not to call the police…I quickly asked DM if this gal had “prison attire” on and had just escaped from prison or what…the lady was emphatic about not calling the police…DM seemed a bit “flustered”. So I told her I was on the way …. Sooo I got there and was able to calm everybody down and they exchanged insurance info. Got the gals address, got an estimate for repair, met with DM’s insurance guy, dropped off the repair estimate to the gal… then went home and drank an “adult beverage”. As you pointed out this could have been real serious if the gal would have hit the drivers side…. I guess “Dear Sons” do come in handy from time to time….

    • This must not have been the lady’s first wreckie-poo… I wonder if she’d been drinking or was high on dope? Or possibly in the country illegally? It’s pretty suspicious that she was that frantic to avoid contact with anyone who looked like an authority.

      Once I was coming off the freeway on a cloverleaf, a particularly dangerous affair that was poorly marked and stupidly designed (the state has since rebuilt the thing). So people fly off the freeway on this off-ramp and then when you reach the six-lane surface street there’s a “yield” sign. People move pretty fast on this road, too, and it’s always crowded.

      The lady in front of me stops at the “yield.” The lane is clear. She steps on the gas. I see her move forward, look to my left and see the road is clear, but I need to move quickly before the next clot of traffic arrives, so I go forward. But SHE STOPS! For no discernible reason (maybe her engine stopped???) she stops dead in front of me as I’m accelerating. Naturally, I rear-end her. And I think ohhhh shit, here it comes!

      But incredibly, she now STANDS ON THE GAS PEDAL and shoots off down the road like a rocket.

      Arizona doesn’t have front license plates, so she couldn’t have gotten my license number. That was the last I heard of it. Fortunately, my car wasn’t damaged. Hers was dented, though.

      Some people are so afraid of the law — presumably for good reason — that they’re willing to sustain a fair amount of financial damage to avoid contact with the police.

      Hope this woman actually ponies up the money she now owes your mom. Sounds like a flake.

      • Nope…this wasn’t this gal’s “first rodeo”…..She had evidently just had some kind of an accident in which her car was totaled and was fearful the insurance company would cancel her. We weren’t after “a pound of flesh”….just wanted DM’s car fixed….so it’s fine. Had we went the “conventional route”….pretty sure we would have wound up with only $800…no car for DM…and our confidence in society tested….

  5. The gal did keep her promise and the “dough” now sits in DM’s bank account. NOW we have to figure out what to do….try to fix the door….buy another car with the proceeds…..find a door and get it fixed OR…. do nothing and let her drive around like a vagabond…..Decisions….decisions….

    • You don’t say how old your DM is, but it might make a difference. I am in my 80’s and the last thing I want to do is have to learn how to drive a different car – especially one with all the current “helpful’ electronics – so I would probably opt to keep the same car. Good Luck.

      • Right on, Ellie! I’m just a kid of 70, and believe me the LAST thing I want to do is attend jet pilot training school to learn how to drive a car full of irrelevant distractions.

        That’s one of the several specific reasons I’ve been reluctant to trade in the Dog Chariot.

  6. I realize that I am late to the party, but I have some thoughts on your idea of moving. Your reasons for moving make sense to me, but I disagree on where you were looking. I periodically get encouragement to leave MN and move to AL because the former is “high tax” and the latter is “low tax.” This strikes me as nonsense.

    Tax money isn’t always spent exactly how I would like it to be, but it is spent. I receive quite a lot for my taxes – roads, police, excellent public schools (which affect more than just parents), parks, all kinds of public programs). All these things have to be paid for out of pocket in “low tax” states, or they simply don’t exist. And when they are purchased by individuals, they are much more expensive.

    In addition, it is always possible to live cheaply in an expensive area, as well as lavishly in a cheap area. There are a lot of choices that can be made that determine how much income is going out monthly, as you well know.

    So setting aside that criterion, here’s my unsolicited opinion: find a college town. You seem to have lived most/all of your life in warm weather, so focus on the southern US. I know nothing about the Southwest, but in the Southeast there are many little towns that have a college – Charlottesville, VA; Lexington, KY; Auburn, AL; Athens, GA; Fayetteville, AR. I’m sure there are comparable places in the SW.

    My reasoning is this. College towns have a lot of cultural and educational opportunities that are free to cheap. There is a built in elder community of retired faculty and staff who are intelligent, well-educated, and looking for things to do, so there are usually lifelong learning programs, public lectures, concerts, museums, etc. They also provide a market for decent health care.

    These towns are also home to broke undergrads, so there are lots of cheap places to eat and shop. The smaller towns are picturesque, and won’t have the hours of commute that drive you insane on a daily basis. You can arrange to find one within a couple of hours of a major airport, which will help Mijito to visit!

    Anyway, I hope that you see this, even though it’s on an older post.