Coffee heat rising

Busted, Disgusted, and Can’t Be Trusted…

 So I have $1.33 to live on for the next 11 days.

If I stay on budget, that is. Of course there’s significantly more than that in the checking account.

But…heh… At this rate, there won’t be for long!!

The $217 water bill plus the $250 power bill plus the $293 for the countertop oven did me in. The situation wasn’t helped by the $250 dentist’s bill for what he thinks are “routine” X-rays.

Welp, the weather is cooling down — it’s only 80 degrees at 5:00 this morning. But of course the power bill I have to pay in September will be for August’s electric use, and it’s been hideously hot most of the month. So presumably that will be another $250. It’s rained a couple of times, but the yard watering is done automatically with an irrigation system, so presumably that will be the same. I replaced a leaky faucet timer, but I kind of doubt that will save much.

I may have to move out of the house, if utility bills keep skyrocketing like this. The bastards at the Corporation Commission, most of whom are Republicans in the pockets of Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project, just fold to requests for rate increases, so every year our bills go up and up.  The only way to get rid of the corruption is to get a more educated populace who will vote the rascals out, but in Arizona, home of the low-rent education system, that ain’t gonna happen.

The other option, I suppose, would be simply to let everything in the yard die. That seems kind of counterproductive, because the yard is the main reason I stay here…

Out of curiosity, I decided to keep a running record of the Surprise! costs, those extraordinary jabs that exceed the proposed budget. Since the new budgeting scheme started in July, we only have two months’ worth. But so far it’s an eye-popper:

ExtraCosts Jul-AugUgh! Think of that: almost $900 of unplanned expenses in two months! And in two of the three most expensive months of the year, when utility bills are through the roof. Never fails, does it? So since we started the budget gambit, we’re averaging almost $450/month in unplanned costs…to be precise, it’s $877/2 = $438.50/month

If I wanted to adjust expense categories to account for several hundred dollars of extraordinary expenses in the budget, where would the money come from?

  1. I could cancel my long-term care insurance. That would save $142 a month.
  2. Amazon Prime could go away: $11 a month
  3. Let the homeowner’s insurance drop: about $70 a month, maybe.
  4. Find new homes for the dogs: about $40 or $50 a month in dog food
  5. Drain the pool; about $40 or $50 in electric, plus a small amount in water bills
  6. I’d say “stop shopping at Costco,” but I almost have: I’m $106 under budget, and the budgeted figure halves historic spending there.
  7. Stop getting my teeth cleaned
  8. Kill off all the trees, shrubbery, and vines in the yard.

None of those looks very promising, except for a tiny savings on Amazon Prime. Letting my insurance drop would put me at enormous risk. Every other possibility would deeply damage my already feeble quality of life.

One thing I could do, though, is tell the dentist that I can’t be going in there in the summertime. If the routine dental bill were moved to a winter month, when utility bills are a fraction of what they are now, they wouldn’t bust the budget. Also, I’ve got to remember to tell them not to X-ray my teeth for fishing expeditions. I’ll call the dentist’s office today and change next year’s date to November, when bills are at their lowest. Or maybe February — bills are low then, too.

Thank heaven there’s no inflation, eh? 😉

Spring 2016 flowers 6
Good-bye to Eden?
Doobie cropped
Good-bye, Puppy?
Good-bye, Pool? So long, Duck-Duck?
Good-bye, Pool? So long, Duck-Duck?
Au revoir, Costco?

20 thoughts on “Busted, Disgusted, and Can’t Be Trusted…”

    • Definite BLS! No question…. On the other hand, I would like to figure out exactly how much — reasonably — it costs me to live and stay within that parameter. If it hadn’t have been for the dentist’s rip-off, I prob’ly would’ve been fine.

      Every time I go in there, they pressure me to get my teeth X-rayed. With the Medical Adventures, I had SO many X-rays and CAT scans and crap, I told them NO, because I felt it was a bad idea. But this time my goddamn teeth hurt — a lot — so I felt they probably should be looked at. Interestingly, they couldn’t see anything wrong…we think it’s because I gnash my teeth, though I’m pretty sure there’s a cracked tooth in there. Whatever, it didn’t show up on the expensive images.

  1. I understand parsing things out this way, but you’re resilient and come up with ways around these obstacles. You’ve got some options still that will allow you to stay in your house and keep your current living standards, you just haven’t made your mind up yet that they are truly options to you. Hang in there!

    • For the time being. The question, I think, is how long that will be true. Just now I _can_ pay a few small unexpected bills, even if several happen at once. But…there’s a finite amount of money there. What will happen in five or ten years? I figure I need to set some parameters now and try to stay within them, before I find myself facing a REAL shortage.

  2. KEEP THE LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE! You’ve paid for it for this long, find something else. Have you considered rain barrels? What about leasing solar panels if you can’t buy them? Pull a couple of rabbits out of your hat.

  3. Maybe rent out a bedroom to temporary tenants like you did a few months ago? Or get a long-term tenant who’s compatible and wouldn’t mind your dogs? I know your privacy is important to you, but maybe you’d be willing to make an exception for the right person.

    • If there were a right person. I have a friend who rents rooms to people she finds on Craig’s List. It’s one extended, nonstop nightmare. Personally, I’ve paid my dues in the roommate department and am not going there again. ‘Druther move to an apartment!

  4. What I find most troubling is that you may just be the “canary in the coal mine”. After right around 8 years of 0 % on savings, seniors are starting to feel the pain of a failed financial plan by the federal government. My thought is that if an educated, intelligent gal who has been gainfully employed over the years with a pretty decent income is having difficulty/challenges in retirement….YIKES!! How is the not so educated, not so smart population that perhaps didn’t have a great income over the years expected to make it? AKA…me! And the “$64 question”…. is this the “new normal” when folks of a certain age need to decide whether to buy meds or groceries or pay insurance premiums?
    As for your expenditures….MAN that water bill is crazy, but the electric based on your climate doesn’t seem so bad. But of course I’m not paying it. I will say that a while back when I felt “challenged” I basically challenged all of my expenses…health insurance, car insurance, homeowners, utilities, water bills, groceries, credit card rewards programs, ….everything. It did have a positive outcome. I replaced my hot water heater with a “hybrid” from GE which caused my electric bill to “fall off the table”, replaced all the workings of toilets and faucets, purchased and “acquired” two rain barrels… which reduced the “paid” water consumption. Evaluated the insurances and raised the deductible a bit where it made sense. And lastly spend most of my grocery $ at Aldi, planted a vegetable garden and concentrated on wasting less food. The garden is starting to produce and I’m starting to freeze and dehydrate the surplus. I have been spending about $30 more or less a week at Aldi and go to the “full service” grocery store about every 6-8 weeks and spend about $60-80. One just has to remain vigilante in these troubled times…

    • These are awesome strategies! I wish we had an Aldi in these parts. There’s a Winco up on Bell Road — quite a drive, but people say it’s good and it’s relatively cheap. Because Px is overstocked with grocery stores, food is priced competitively here. Plus these food bank handouts are INCREDIBLE…yesterday was the first time I’d had to buy serious groceries in a month & a half. And I really do think that staying out of Costco is going to save some serious dollars.

      If (big if) I hadn’t had the dentist bill and the busted oven, I would be well under budget this month. Because of those unexpected rips, I’ll end the month fairly deep in the red. Luckily, there are funds in the account to cover it…but of course, I had something else I needed to do with that money. That — replastering the pool — is probably not going to get done this year. But the world won’t end.

      I think we’re looking at the new normal for most Americans. Even with “no inflation,” prices continue to rise — and the amounts some people are paying for health insurance that doesn’t cover them because the deductibles are more than anyone could possibly afford…my god! Between the fake health insurance and the rising cost of food and utilities, those alone will push you into the red. Plus the fact that most people are up to their noses in credit-card debt…did you know the average credit-card balance for people who carry a balance is $7697? ( The average interest rate is 15% (

      Though many people are surprisingly stupid about money, I doubt that many people would willingly go up to their noses in credit-card debt unless they were forced to it.

      I looked in to the rain barrel idea. It appears to be quite a project, and to put one together and in place probably would take more physical strength than I have. Plus I’d have to install gutters. That’s not cheap, and in my last house, the gutters caused the fascia boards to rot. Replacing those things really IS expensive!

      An easier move would be simply to get off my duff when it rains and turn off the watering system. That requires one to remember to turn it back on…but sticking a note on the door would help with that. It rained last night — so I guess I need to run out there right now and shut the water down.

  5. I did NOT know that was the average cc balance carried….MAN almost $8K @ 15%….100 a month JUST in interest. Maybe that’s how folks are staying afloat. BUT my dear neighbors across the street are in their early 70’s and he shared not so long ago that they still have a mortgage AND “extensive” (whatever that means) CC debt…crazy. As for the rain barrels it might be more trouble than it’s worth. AND may even be illegal….Yep…pretty sure Colorado and in some other states out west it is illegal to “cache” water. But in this “neck of the woods” it is encouraged and basically the thought is if the water lands on your property it’s yours. But out West…it’s a more socialist attitude and the water is needed to re-charge groundwater.
    My thought is thank goodness you didn’t buy a new vehicle. Just imagine the added costs that would have entailed. For me a bike is looking better all the time!

    • Ugh! I DO NOT understand how people can survive with a mortgage. Certainly not in retirement. They probably have credit-card debt because they can’t make ends meet otherwise.

      What happens, d’you suppose, with credit-card debt when you croak over? Do your heirs have to pony up the balance? Won’t your neighbors’ adult kids be thrilled…

      • I read an article on MSN (I think) this morning that claimed that if you aren’t a co-signer, your parents CC debt is NOT your problem. The article also said to watch out for unscrupulous collection agencies who will dun you for the debt anyway. Shocking, isn’t it? ;o)

      • @Catseye: They might have some recourse against your estate, though. That is, they may not be able to make your heirs pay out of THEIR pockets, but if the estate has enough to cover the bills (or even part of the bills), they may be able to collect from the money you left.

  6. In another life when “dinos roamed the earth” I was a Realtor and did a lot of “Bank Work”…”repo’s”. And got to work with a lot of attorneys with the properties and the crazy debts that encumbered property. Some after someone was deceased. I can not remember one time they chose to pursue the estate to collect unsatisfied debt. It simply isn’t worth it in most cases monetarily. Some banks did chose to sell some of the debt to an entity for pennies on the dollar. By and large heirs are under no obligation to pay the unsecured debt. However the secured debt of a mortgage is another matter IF the “numbers are right”. Litigation is expensive……

  7. you’ll get through this! I also agree, don’t ever give up the long term care insurance. Not that you should give up anything on that list but I say it’s smart of you to have invested in it and would be terrible to let it lapse.

    My dad bought a house late in life, although he took a shorter term and did put a significant chunk down, plus my step-mom is 8 years younger so she’ll be working a lot longer than him. But I still thought it was not smart of them to buy so late and have a mortgage. He’s 65 and planning to work another 5 years at least (maybe longer) but he also doesn’t have the same energy level as he’s on HRT as a prostate cancer survivor so I don’t know if he can even make it working that much longer. You’re lucky that you at least don’t have a mortgage.

    have you looked at cities friendly for retirees? where I live, in the Philly burbs, it’s up there as public transport is pretty decent (even outside Philly) and super cheap for seniors (regional rail is $1 compared to $5-$12 a ticket and subways/buses are free) plus lotto money in Pennsylvania supports programs for people 65 and older. Although if you’re not a fan of winter, it definitely gets colder than Arizona! But as a home owner here, I never have utility bills that high, even in peak winter. I also hear Minnesota is a great state to be in now because the governor has done a lot of good with taxes he raised on high tax brackets (gasp!).

    • It’s definitely no fun to have a mortgage in your dotage. (Wait? Does that rhyme???? :-b ) But…if you have enough that you can afford it and still have an adequate living income, WTF?

      My investment guy’s position is that most of the time, return on investment is higher than mortgage interest in the US. Therefore, he argues, you’re better off to leave $XXX,000 in investments returning (on average) 6% and use the return on that to pay a mortgage in that amount at 4% than you are to throw all your money at the real estate investment. His sense is that overall return on real estate is not as high as return on securities.

      I get that. It DOES make sense.

      But intuitively it’s tough to swallow. You still have the nagging feeling that if your money is making 6% on average, then there will be times when it’s NOT making 6%. Or even 4%. Or even…0%… There _will_ be times when you’re losing money, and you have no way of knowing how long those times will last. If it’s a month or two, fine. But what if it’s a year or two? Or, as in the Great Depression, a decade or two?

      Taking out a mortgage late in life may not be a bad idea, but it’s sure not for the faint of heart. Or, I fear, for sufferers of chronic Bag Person Syndrome.

      You know, I’ve known so many people who have moved to supposedly retiree-friendly garden spots and not been happy. That includes people who have moved across the country to be with their kids. Your kids…they don’t really want you underfoot. It may not be a great idea to leave your friends and your support system behind…just depends on how adaptable you are, I guess.

      My step-mother did that, hevvin help her. When her husband of a zillion years died suddenly, she was so bereft that she moved back to Ohio to be with her friends there. That lasted about two years. She realized you can’t go home again…about two years later, she moved back out here, where her real friends were, to the tune of a substantial financial loss. One thing she taught me by example: when you’re on in years, _be careful_ about making major decisions.

      Arizona is pretty retiree-friendly. The cost of living compared to other urban areas is pretty low. Out in the sticks, it’s very low, indeed, although the infrastructure in rural areas is lacking. But if you move to some place like Sun City, where there’s NO school taxes on the houses (Del Webb got that grandfathered in, and the politicos have never been able to rescind it), taxes are about a third and insurance is about half of what they are in the rest of Maricopa County. Plus Sheriff Joe knows which side his bread is buttered on — he rides herd on that place, so the crime rate is almost nil.

      True, public transport leaves something to be desired (ohhh…like transport…), but in 110-degree heat, who wants to be standing around waiting for a bus or a train? In another few years, Google, Ford, and others WILL have self-driving cars on the road, and when that happens…hot dang! Those things will be the answer to the old buzzard’s prayer. I figure a self-driving vehicle will keep me out of the old-folkerie until I can’t dodder over to the refrigerator and pull out a bottle of wine anymore. When you figure a life-care community will cost you about $40,000 or $50,000 a year, if a self-driving chariot costs you $100,000, the thing will pay for itself in two years.

  8. …”Your kids…they don’t really want you underfoot”…WOW…for whatever reason this phrase really struck a chord. Maybe because there is a hint of exclusion rather than inclusion …which is the way families used to be. I agree with the scenario you describe of folks leaving their homes after retirement to better climates OR to be closer to the kids….it rarely works well. I can’t count how many folks I know who have done this….only to return to the community they called HOME. As for the mortgage question in retirement…I’m torn…the numbers may tell a different story BUT there is nothing that matches the “peace of mind” of having a paid for home.

    • Young people today build new families of their friends and forget about the ones they didn’t have any choice about.

      I can’t complain, though: we did the same. Our friends were like brothers and sisters, and my women friends — not my mother — were my confidantes. What goes around comes around…

      Yeah, having the house paid off is huge. Maybe if you had so much money that paying out $1200+/- wouldn’t matter, you’d feel more comfortable with your cash in securities. But personally…well. If the house hadn’t been paid been paid for when I was laid off, I would have lost it. Period.

  9. Perhaps if the place hadn’t been paid off you would be blogging today from a lovely “efficiency” just outside Phoenix….I don’t know if it’s my circumstances or what but todays kids are just different. My oldest lives within 2 miles of me and we have not spoke in over 3 years….another story…The youngest graduated and headed West for adventure. DW and I are both oldest children and have always felt a responsibility to “help” our parents….Our kids….not so much. Maybe we gave them too much….not enough. DW was told at a recent visit to DD2 that she …”just wants to be my wife’s friend” and doesn’t need mothering. Hmmmm interesting….And DD1 commented once with me standing right there that ….”I was lucky….that she didn’t go to a more expensive college”…Funny I didn’t feel so lucky dropping $100K in 4 years. Thank goodness DW has made a life for herself outside of the kids….

  10. Jeez. My kid’s not THAT much of an ingrate. 😀 Or if he is, at least he manages to keep silent about it…

    Ha ha! I’d be blogging from under the 7th Avenue Overpass, which just now would be pretty soggy. Rents here are higher than the typical mortgage payment. My son (and I…) are paying less for a three-bedroom house with a big yard, centrally located, than a measly apartment in town costs here. I couldn’t afford rent, either. I don’t know what I’d be doing now if I’d not paid off the mortgage. Probably living in Yarnell.

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