Coffee heat rising


At last! Monsoon season is almost over, and here we get our first thunderstorm of the summer — with rain. About time, I’d say!

Ruby the Corgi is unnnerved. She contemplates jumping off the bed, but it’s a drop from the top of the mattress to the floor. Too exposed up here: she craves her den, under the toilet.

Clearly, under the toilet is the only safe place to be during a noisy storm. 🙂

And noisy it is. The light show is going on about 5 to 10 miles away, by my count. But still, a few thunderclaps are…arresting.

Amused myself this evening by starting to figure out next year’s budget, the annual required minimum withdrawal having just arrived from Fidelity. The numbers do not look good.

It appears that over the next year, I’ll have a shortfall of $12,470. This year’s RMD plus Social Security total up to $31,460, but when I set aside the amounts I paid for 2019 taxes and insurance plus the $300/month for emergency savings, the net available to live on for a year is $20,085. Meanwhile, my total average living expense per year is now $32,556, not including any little surprises like dental work and pool repair. That’s a shortfall of $12,471. If I don’t put anything aside for emergencies, we still end up with a shortfall of $8870.

I got by for about 10 or 11 months this year on the RMD and Social Security, but had to take the RMD a couple of months early. Financial Dude just transferred $16,500 from Fidelity, but after taxes & insurance, that will not cover my costs for 12 months. Or even, I’m afraid, for 10 months.

Coincidentally, we’re de-incorporating The Copyeditor’s Desk, changing it from an S-corp to a sole proprietorship. What that will mean tax-wise escapes me. But the business account has just about enough to make up the shortfall, assuming I don’t have to buy any new computer hardware. But…that’s this year.

Then what?


Budget off the Rails


Okay, I admit it: I have neglected the budget. Yea verily, I have lost the art of penny-pinching.

Result: I’m running out of money, two months before the start of my next “personal fiscal year,” which starts in September. In 2017, that’s when I took the last Required Minimum Drawdown from the 401K, which was supposed to last a year.


So next year I have to figure out how to live on 21 grand plus a pittance from Social Security. Since running this house and feeding me and the dogs consume about 2 grand a month, that’s a challenge.

Just now I’m as close to broke as I can get, budget-wise, considering that I have enough cash in the bank to cover about six weeks of expenses, and it’s eight weeks before the start of September.

The other day I mentioned the “envelope method” plan I’d cooked up: fill a Costco cash card with a budgeted amount to spend there during a month, and when it runs out, stop buying. This makes some sense, though nothing is to stop me from streaking out of the Costco over to the nearest Safeway and filling out the shopping list…probably at more expense than just buying everything at whatever CC would cost. Hmmm….

Whilst staring blankly at an unfriendly spreadsheet, a little INSIGHT dawned… Don’t budget by the month. Budget by the year. And instead of using cash cards as “envelopes,” use bank accounts. I already have a checking account, which juggles cash flow; an emergency savings account (containing $4.61); and an account to hold payments from Medigap and Medicare B, preparatory to forwarding that money to the Mayo.

[The Mayo does not “take Medicare assignment.” This is a bureaucratic way of saying they don’t accept direct deposit from Medicare or your Medigap insurer. So, every goddamn time you go to the doctor or an ER or whatEVER, you have to field a blitz of ditzy little annoying checks, deposit them in your bank account, and then pay the Mayo. Right now one has been sitting on my desk for awhile, waiting for me to get around to the hassle of scanning and uploading it: $24.17. The Mayo’s outstanding bill is several hundred dollars… It is, in a word or two, a fuckin’ nuisance.]

Where were we? Yes, staring blankly, dreaming up a fresh scheme…

A little calculation showed that if I were to get a freaking grip on spending, in theory this year’s drawdown should just about cover 2018/19 expenditures, if nothing happens. By “nothing,” we mean no major car repair bills, no appliances having to be replaced, no giant vet bills, no dental work…a very big “nothing,” indeed. But let’s pretend a person could get through 12 months without having to confront any of those.


What if I kept the drawdown that just hit my checking account in my checking account, but did not keep Social Security income in checking? What if I auto-transferred each Social Security deposit over to the Emergency Savings account…. Said E.S. account is empty just now, putting me at considerable risk of future misery. Twelve hundred a month would, in theory, load that account with some 14 grand over the next year, allowing me not to have to spend crazily to keep up with routine month-to-month costs.

And instead of keeping the entire drawdown in checking, what if I transferred the $8,408 a year demanded by taxes and insurance (!!!!!!) over to the present tax & insurance savings account, now empty because the 2018 T&I bills have all been paid. What if?

What would then remain in checking would be the amount I could spend on living expenses. This would be much truncated by setting all the net Social Security income aside for emergencies. But since I now have approximately $0.00 set aside in emergency savings, the truncation would be very much worth it. And, according to my English-major calculations, if I could cut the Costco bills down from $300 a month to $200 a month, this scheme would be eminently do-able.

Why do I think it would work?

Because the AMEX billing cycle closed yesterday. I charge everything on American Express, mostly including Costco but also racking up bills at various grocery stores and other retailers. This month the tab was only $775. Basically, an AMEX bill reflects all living expenses except utilities, taxes, and insurance.

It’s usually more like $1200. That means I spent some $425 less this month than I usually do.

Well, if I can spend $425 less than normal in June, I can do it all the time, no?

Yeah: probably “no.” But what’s to stop one from trying?

So the money from Fidelity hit the credit union this morning. Here’s what we now have:

$16,644 to live on for the next year (stashed in checking)
$8,408 for taxes & insurance (stashed in T&I savings)
$14,532 incoming from Social Security over the next 12 months (routed to Emergency savings)

So even though Social security will bring the year’s total cash available to something over 31 grand, the plan is to try to live on just $16,644.

That works out to $1,387 a month. So far in the current year, the one that is driving me to the metaphorical poorhouse, I’ve spent an average of $1,750 a month, a difference of $363.

So to live on this proposed new budget, I’ll have to cut spending by about $365 a month.

However, a backup fund will be growing at the rate of about $1200+ a month. If need be, I can draw down from Emergency Savings to make up the difference. So even if I regularly went over budget by some $363 every month, the red ink would only amount to about $4355. That would still leave something like 10 grand in Emergency Savings at the end of a year.

How to cut $363 a month out of normal spending?

Well, obviously:

Don’t go to dentists.
Don’t go to vets.
Don’t drive the car any more than absolutely necessary (so as not to run up repair bills).
Don’t buy clothes.
Don’t buy shoes.
Don’t go out to eat.
Don’t go to shows or movies or musical events.
Cling to every goddamn red penny.

It’s going to be a mighty dull year, I’m afraid. But I can’t be running out of cash two months before the end of every 12-month cycle. Something has to be done to get caught up with the spending

How’s That [fill-in-the-blank] Workin’ for Ya?

Thankee, that [hand-wash the dishes scheme] is workin’ surprisingly well. Who’d’ve thunk it?

LOL! Have been banging around since the hounds and I rolled out of the sack at 4:30 a.m. The mile-long dawg walk is done. Pool maintenance: done. Yard maintenance: done. Three loads of laundry: done. Shitload of housework: done. Trash hauling: done. And it’s only 11:00 in the morning!

Interestingly, it turns out that washing dishes by hand is nowhere near as annoying as I remember it from my misspent youth, when my mother used to make me wash all the damn dishes. In the first place, there’s only one person dirtying up dishes here (well…not counting the pooches). In the second, I cook almost exclusively on the grill (especially in the summertime!), and so there are no pots and pans to scrub. And finally, because in diet mode I eat only twice a day, stacks of dirty dishes fail to materialize.

If I set my own and the pooches’ plates in a sink filled with soapy water, whenever I get around to sponging and rinsing them, it takes less than three minutes to wash them and drop them in the washer’s dishrack to drain. Exactly zero electric power is consumed (the water heater runs on gas). Compare that with the two-hour power- and water-consuming cycle to wash the same number of dishes & utensils!

Think of that. If I washed dishes twice a day, every day, that would be six minutes times seven, or 42 minutes a week. Less than half the time it takes to run one dishwasher load!

Normally I run the washer about once every second or third day. So that would mean in a week I would run it twice or three times: four to six hours of electric use!

Compare that with zero hours of electric consumption, and maybe three gallons of water per day, heated with gas.

My kitchen sports a huge double sink. I mean, huge. This makes it possible to fill one sink with richly Dawn-enhanced water. Then, whenever the dogs or I finish eating something, I set the dishes in the water and leave them to soak (having wiped the food into the trash first, of course). Later in the day: sponge down the collected pottery, glass, and stainless, rack it, drain and rinse the sink, and forget it.

It’s no exaggeration to say this takes about three minutes.

Maybe SDXB wasn’t as crazy as I thought.

He hates dishwashers and refuses to use them. When he lived with me, he tried to force me to abjure the use of my Kitchenaid. It was one of several constant sources of conflict.

On the other hand, SDXB did love to cook. And what a mess that man could make! The result would always be piles of sticky, greasy pans, mountains of bowls and platters and plates, knives and spoons and forks and peelers and mixers and…ugh!!! Washing all that stuff by hand was, in fact, one bitch of a chore.

That’s not how I prepare food these days. Almost everything that I cook goes on the grill. Most veggies can be grilled on one of those barbecue pan things with the little holes in it. Meat, of course, goes right over the fire. Even pasta (for example) doesn’t get a cooking pot very dirty. So with few pots and pans — and almost never a frying or sauté pan — the dishes you eat off of are pretty easy to soak clean.

On other fronts: Did I fix the link in yesterday’s Complete Writer post? No. My patience is still too short to address that issue. Gimme a break, Lord!

Am I going to make it to the end of my personal “fiscal” year in September, when the annual required minimum drawdown from the IRA is slated? No. I have $4,000 in the checking account. Talked the Mayo into reducing its bill by $305, the amount Medicare and Medigap refused to cover for the stupid “annual checkup” that I should have turned down, but that was a drop in the bucket. Yesterday in the mail came a bill for something over $2,000 for next year’s Medigap coverage. That is a huge increase. Obviously, since it costs about $2,000/month to run this house and feed me and the dogs and operate the car and fill the various hands reaching into my pocketbook — exclusive of tax and insurance bills — I am not going to make it to September on what remains in the bank.

I’m told long-term care coverage is also going way up.

Obviously, I can’t continue to live on the RMD plus Social Security at this rate. Possibly I’ll have to consider canceling the long-term care coverage. That is a HUGE risk. If I don’t die quickly but instead land in some nursing home, the cost will drain savings fast, impoverishing me and eliminating any chance of leaving enough to my son to matter.

My plan is to exit stage left if it looks like any such thing is coming down the pike. If one were to succeed in that strategy, it would render the long-term care insurance massively redundant. On the other hand, there’s always the chance that — say you had a stroke or you fell and hurt yourself bad enough that you couldn’t move around — one might not be able to reach the tools set aside for the purpose.

I’d rather not have to pay that accursed insurance bill. But on the other hand, I sure don’t want everything I hope to leave to my son taken away…for what? To keep me pointlessly alive?

And finally, remember the Vicks VapoRub Quack Cure for supposed toenail fungus? How did that work? Mixed. After the initial six-week experiment, I continued to use it for a several months. But it must be said that the stuff does stink. One does tire of going to bed smelling like a chemical factory. So eventually I gave it up.

And, as expected, eventually the dry hide/possible fungus was back to business as usual.

My friend VickyC reported that tea tree oil had worked for her. Look it up, and you find that it does work, sometimes: in 10% to 14% of cases. The other option is a very expensive topical fungicide whose results are similarly weak, or anti-fungicidal pills that can make you good and sick. Thanks: I’ll take the toenails as they are.

So the other day I picked up a tea tree oil concoction (woo-wooooo!) at Whole Foods and tried it.

Damned if it doesn’t make a difference!

However: I suspect that’s because this is probably not a fungal infection. At first glance, Derma-Doc pronounced the thick skin and raggedy nail ends on the right foot (not on the left one) to be “dry skin.” He recommended massaging a whole lotta Eucerin into the toes. And the rest of the foot. And the other foot.

Side note: for years a neuroma caused so much pain in the ball of that foot that I would curl my toes under when walking, to relieve the pressure on the spot that hurt. That caused extensive callusing on the ends of the toes…which, we might add, coincide with the tips of one’s toenails. Thus Derma-Doc’s off-the-cuff diagnosis had some credibility.

Later, also on the fly, he remarked that it was a fungus. So: WTF. Who knows?

This time, though, unlike past episodes of fretting, one of the nails had developed a  brown spot.

Side note: however, awhile back I whacked my foot good and bruised the toes. The dark spot could have been a little blood seeping under the nail, which would not be the first time that’s happened.

So, following the quack instructions, I went to file the surface of the nail a bit, and lo! that lifted the discolored area right off. Clearly, whatever it is does not dwell under the nail, as we’re told is the case with a nail infection.

Tea tree oil has its own annoying New-Agey perfume, but it dissipates quickly. Put it on an hour or two before bed-time, and it does not accompany you between the sheets. Nor does it fill the air around you with a nose-crinkling stink.

I’ve been brushing this stuff on each night and then covering the feet with peds… After just a few days, the rhino-hide effect has much improved. The brown spot remains gone. And I suspect that if a person continued this “regimen” (heh) over a period of weeks or months, eventually the road-worn toes would assume a normal appearance.

We shall see. This is so easy, there’s no reason not to try it.