Sunday, August 11, 2019

How Do You Break Out of Survival Mode and Make Your Life Better?

“I often think I can’t do this anymore but then I realize what choice do I have?” —Justin Blaney

It's so hard to get up every day sometimes and just keep surviving. It's hard to keep believing that things are going to get better, when they've been bad for so long. After awhile, you just give up and settle for the life you have.

I should be deliriously happy right now. My son loaned me some money to get a car, and a car would change my life completely. It would also be a huge burden that I'm not sure I want. I'd have to spend most of my disposable income supporting said car, then I'd have nothing to save to move to Mexico. 

I think I can make money with the car, but what if it turns out that I can't, or it's too hard, or too much work? What if the car breaks down and I don't have the money to fix it? 

I keep saying I want to do things, then the difficulties of actually doing them overwhelm me, and I sink back into just surviving. My mind is just so used to failure, I don't know how to succeed. I don't even know if I want to succeed. Success brings its own set of stresses, and I'm not good with success. I've avoided it all my life because I'm so easily overwhelmed and don't want to have to live up to anyone's expectations. 

So how do you break out of a lifetime of believing that you are only capable of surviving and get on the road to a better life?

The absolute truth is...I don't know. 

I don't know if I can do better than I'm doing, and I don't even know if I want to try. Right now, I just want to get rid of everything I own and move to a tiny studio in Mexico and JUST BE STILL. 

I'm tired of everything I own, everything I've hung on to for years and years for what? So someone else can have them when I'm dead? I'm tired of living for other people's benefit, ignoring my own.

I'm ... Just ... Plain ... Tired

Exhausted, really. 

Yesterday, my son asked me where I wanted my life to be in a year. I didn't know. I still don't really know, but I know what I don't want.

I don't want to be here, in this city, in this apartment.
I don't want to be holding onto "things" for other people
I don't want to own any more than what I truly need.
I don't want to struggle to pay bills only to end up with nothing for myself.


If I have to be honest, I may be running away with my plan to live in Mexico, but I feel like I'm running away from something bad, not running away from myself, like I have so many times before. I've accepted myself.
I need to be somewhere that I can survive on my own and not have to stress over what other people think I should be. I want to live in a place where I'm not expected to "be better" or "do better," where happiness is not tied to material things, but in spending time with people you love and appreciating what is around you.

I want my joy back. 

I've lost my joy. Nothing makes me joyful anymore. I fake it pretty well, but there is no joy in my life. Not even my gardens make me joyful like they used to. Lately, I just want to rip them all out and throw the plants in the dumpster, because taking care of them is just one more responsibility I don't want. 

I don't know if moving to Mexico will bring me joy, but it will lessen my stress, because most of my stress is financial. Relieving the financial stress of living in a country where there is nowhere I can go to have a decent life that I can truly afford is shortening the life I have. 

I just want out, and I never want to come back. All my life, I've had to be the one who tried to keep everyone happy, but I'm old now, and I deserve some happiness of my own. 

So I've made a decision. I'm going to get rid of everything I own and get out of this 'bound for hell' country where people die and go bankrupt because they can't afford health care, or where they lose everything they've worked all their lives for because of greedy bankers, who they then have to pay taxes to bail out. But most of all, I want to get away from all the hatred. I can't take it anymore, and I do have a choice. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Moving to Mexico For a Better Quality of Life

I've been going through a lot of health issues, mental and physical, in the past few months. It has me thinking that maybe I need to start thinking about making big changes in my life, maybe even moving to another country altogether.

Why Mexico?

I've thought about moving to Mexico for a long time. The cost of living is getting so high here that I'm having a harder time making ends meet every month. Rents are going up to the point where I'm stuck in this apartment, because the lowest rent I can find in a decent apartment close to amenities is $700. My rent goes up every year, but only about $10 or so, at least it has. They just raised the new tenant rent up by $50 over what I'm paying, so my thoughts about moving to a 2-bedroom are squashed. 

I've done some figuring, and in Mexico, I can live the same lifestyle I live here for about half of the cost. It won't be a luxury lifestyle, but I'll have money left over at the end of the month, and I can even live in a beach town. The same food we get here from Mexico, I can buy there for 1/4 of the price and it's ripe, not shipped green. It has more vitamins since it hasn't sat in a warehouse or a truck for sometimes weeks before it gets to our stores. Everything is just so much cheaper there.

The people in Mexico are lovely, helpful, generous and kind. If you treat them fairly and return their kindness, you will be blessed with wonderful friends for life. I've had a hard time making friends here, because the whole town turns around people who have cars. Most people in Mexico don't own cars, so public transportation is excellent and very cheap. Even taxicabs in Mexico are incredibly cheap. Still, most people live close to what they need and walk to most places. I love to walk, so that suits me just fine.

A Quality of Life Upgrade

I don't have a lot of good years left, and my quality of life here is really below par. I'm restricted as to how much money I can make to keep my healthcare, so I can't really enjoy much of life. Except for my gardening, and a yearly visit from my son, I really don't have much quality of life. I'm restricted by income as to what I can do, and where I can go. I'd love to have a car, but if I get one, I'd have to make so much money to support it, that I'd lose my healthcare. 

In Mexico, healthcare is cheap, which is why a lot of Americans go there to have dental and medical procedures done. They have great doctors, in fact, many Mexican specialists are flown up to the hospitals in Houston on weekends to work. Natural medicine is prominent in Mexico, and doctors are more concerned with wellness than pushing drugs on you. 

If I don't have to worry so much about healthcare, I can use my money to enjoy my life. The stress of worrying about staying healthy here is making me ill. 

How Much Does It Cost to Move to Mexico?

I'll go over some of the costs as I go along with my plan, but here are a few of the upfront costs I'll be discussing:
  • Visa - to get a visa, you have to go to a Mexican consulate in the US. My closest one is in Orlando, so I'll have to pay for transportation to Orlando, probably a hotel for one night, plus the fees for my Visa. More about the types of visas and costs later.
  • Transportation - I'll fly into the place I think I'd be most happy in and travel from there. Since public transportation is so cheap, my air fare will be my biggest expense. 
  • Housing - It's hard to arrange housing in advance, and the cheapest places are locally owned, so you have to go there and just beat the streets looking for cheap rentals. Most people get an AirBNB for a month while they do their shopping, but you can usually get a studio or 1-bedroom for $200-400 a month with all utilities furnished. Many times, the landlord owns several properties, and you can find a long-term rental from them. 
  • Food - food is very cheap in Mexico. I'm used to eating on $164/mth as my SNAP budget here, and I can eat for less than that in Mexico if I shop wisely and cook most of my meals myself. I'll have to do that anyway, because with my reflux, I can't eat the very spicy foods most of the restaurants serve. Food cost will include water in most places, because public water is not safe to drink.
  • Miscellaneous - I'll be going on a 6-month visitor visa at first, to make sure I like Mexico enough to actually move there. Because of how my lease runs, I'll probably have to put things in storage while I'm checking things out, because I definitely can't afford to pay rent in two places.

So there you have it. Yes, I'm learning Spanish, which is a bit easier for me, since I studied it for two years in high school, and already know the pronunciations and basics. I'm using Duolingo for now, but may switch to a more advanced program later. 

If my son is reading this blog, which I doubt, since he doesn't like to read long things, he'll just laugh and shake his head and think this is just another pipe dream, like van dwelling, and not pay much attention, but we'll see. Maybe I won't tell him when I leave. Maybe I'll just call him and say "I moved to Mexico" once it's done, then he will have a beautiful place to visit in the winter.

That's it. It's not a dream, it's a plan, and I'm going to make it happen. In the meantime, I'll be posting about getting rid of most everything I own and how I'm going on a strict budget to save enough money to move to Mexico. Maybe you'll pick up some good frugal tips along the way. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Reassessing My Life, Taking a Totally New Direction

Like Cher sang in "Walking in Memphis,"
Yeah, I got a first class ticket
But I'm as blue as a girl can be
That's how I've been feeling lately. I have a nice apartment, sufficient income and the ability to make more, good medical care, decent health -- but something is missing. I can't put my finger on it, but my life just isn't right. It has no meaning to me.

To steal a phrase from Konmari, nothing in my life "sparks joy" anymore. I don't even enjoy my gardening, although I keep doing it because it's the only thing that gives me any sense of accomplishment.

I don't like the city I live in. I moved here because it had a great gardening community and I thought I could be a part of it, but that didn't work out. I've been here for 5 years and have yet to put together a group of friends, because I assumed I'd make them through the gardening community.

I've come to realize that without a car, I'm not going to be able to participate in much of anything, especially not in the summer. My sensitivity to heat is getting worse, so I'm literally trapped inside most of the summer.

So I'm terribly, terribly unhappy. It's not the town, the apartment, the people. It's me. I need more. I need something that is going to excite me. I need to do something impactful with the rest of my life, and I can't do it here. I feel trapped, by my possessions, by my financial situation, and I can see now way out except to risk something important to have something better.

A New Life Requires Sacrifices

One way I'm trapped is by my financial situation. I need to make money to institute the changes I want, and I'm stuck on the benefits cliff. If I make more than a couple of hundred dollars a month, I'll lose my Medicaid, which pays my Medicare premiums, co-pays and deductibles. I had no health care for so long that I'm terrified to let go of it now, especially since I'm getting older.

I have the capability to make good money, which would make my life so much better. In order to do that, I have to let go of what I have and go back to what I had. I can't NOT have Medicare, they don't allow that. If you let it go, you just can't ever get it back, so I've decided to go with an Advantage plan.

This will cost me somewhere between $35 and $100/month depending on what the benefits of the plan are. I'll be restricted as to what doctors I can see and I'll have a deductible and co-pay for doctor visits, but it will include eye and dental care. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to get more information about what plans are available and what the cost will be.

Since I can't afford to pay all the extra costs, I'm going to have to go back to mostly treating myself with alternative medicine, but I survived that way for many, many years, so that doesn't bother me. I'll just start back only going to the Dr. for yearly checkups and if I actually get sick. I've started on a new diet and exercise program to try to get as healthy as I can so I won't need doctors as much.

All of this has to wait until the open enrollment period from Oct. 15, 2019 to Dec. 7, 2019. I'll probably put that off until December, because I will need to save up some money before then to have as a cushion once my benefits start being cut.

Making More Money

Freeing myself from the restrictions of Medicaid will allow me to make as much money as I want. Yes, I'll lose my food stamps, but I've learned to eat pretty well on less than $200/month, so that won't be such a burden. I've developed very good frugal eating habits, and I'm on a calorie-restricted diet now, so I can survive.

I'll kick up my affiliate marketing and also do more freelance writing to hep pay the basic bills while I build the AM business. Feeling like I HAVE to make money to pay bills and survive will motivate me to work more, and the more I make and save, the more motivated I'll become.

First Things First

My first goal is to buy a car. I want a min-van, because I'd like to eventually turn it into a camper van and travel. That's the first HUGE change I'm going to make. In order to do that, I'll have to get rid of most of what I own, which will take time. More about that later.

I'm going to resign my lease in July for another year here at this apartment, and in the meantime, I'll be doing what I need to do to set off on my new life. 16 months sounds like a lot of time, but I have a lot to do, so it's not so long after all. If I'm going to make major changes in my life, I'm going to have to get started now so when time comes to leave here, I'll be ready to walk out the door with no regrets.

I can hardly wait to get started! This is my new purpose, and this time, I'm not going to let myself down. I have many good years left, and I'm going to live them to the fullest.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Thing People Admire Most About Me Is the Thing I Hate the Most

People admire me because I never give up, no matter how many times I fail. To them, it's a sign of strength and a strong will, but to me it's a constant reminder of why I have to start over so many times, and why I am constantly failing.

I've never been a go-getter. I never was career minded or driven to succeed. I just wanted to make enough money to not be constantly struggling. I've never really achieved that goal, and the reason is because I'm lazy.

Yes, I admit it, I'm lazy. I start projects but I always fail because I don't work hard enough or long enough to get anywhere with them.

Take my freelance writing. Most of the people I started with long ago on the content mills have moved on to private clients. Those still in the mills worked hard when work was available, got promotions, got direct orders, and are making decent money. I never did any of that, so now I'm still stuck at the lower rungs and will never get to where they are, mostly because I don't want to.

Writing Wasn't Really a Choice, Nor Is It a Passion

I truly hate content writing, especially the e-commerce writing that dominates the mills today. If I never have to write another product description, I'll be perfectly happy. So I don't. I don't write anything on the mills, because being such a failure still stuck at the bottom makes me hate even going to the sites.

I got thrown into content writing during the recession, because I couldn't find another job at first, then I lost my car, so I had no way to get to a job. I could have been successful at it, but I didn't really try hard enough. I never considered it a full-time job. I worked enough to pay the bills, never did make enough to save any money, so when a source of income dried up, I was always in trouble. I feel guilty about this, because so many people helped me out during these times, and I didn't deserve their help.

Scheme After Scheme After Scheme

I always have a new scheme for making money, getting out of poverty and moving up in the world. They all fail because I just don't put my heart and soul into them. Sometimes, I never even start them.

My latest scheme is affiliate marketing. I decided on that not because I could make a goodly amount of easy money, but because I actually enjoy blogging and teaching people about things I'm interested in. I have plans for how I'm going to start. I've been reading about it for years, even bought some books (which I haven't read). I bought hosting space and picked out a nice Wordpress template. My plan was to start on Jan. 1 of this year.

So far, I haven't done anything. I haven't set up my template, I haven't written many blogs posts this year (the plan was 3 a week), and I haven't even put any Amazon or eBay widgets or links on my existing blogs. I've just been sitting here, watching TV and playing on social media, promising myself I'll start tomorrow, which I never do. I've done that for the past 17 days.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

I always have excuses. It's too hot, it's too cold, I don't feel well, I have to go shopping, shopping wears me out, blah, blah, blah. Those excuses aren't lies, but they aren't legitimate reasons why I shouldn't be working.

I've tried to figure out why I'm like this. I could blame it on my parents and family, who always put me down, told me I'd never succeed, and literally called me crazy because I got angry when they abused me. That's not a good excuse. Lots of people had worse upbringings than I did, and they managed to succeed.

I don't know why I make excuses or why I'm not motivated to do anything better with my life. I've always been self-sabotaging. No amount of counseling or medication has ever helped me overcome that.

Truth be told, I just don't want the responsibility. I had so much responsibility for so long, and it always drove me to near total insanity, because I don't handle stress well. If I'm successful, there will be expectations, and I've never lived up to anyone's expectations, so why put myself in that position?

No one expects anything of me now. They don't expect me to succeed at anything, or keep promises, or be able to deal with life in general. I've fallen into a comfort zone with that.

So maybe I'll do the affiliate marketing, and maybe I won't. Maybe I'll live on welfare the rest of my life, watching tv and playing on social media. I don't know, but right now, I'm not really motivated to do much of anything, so I'm going to go watch some TV and then go for a long walk.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Which Grocery Store is Cheaper? It Depends on What You Are Looking For

The question often comes up when talking about frugality as to which store is cheapest? There is no good answer to this, because which stores are available depend in large part on where you live. More than that, it depends on whether you want quantity or quality.

Most people are like me. I want quality in some things, and quantity in others. For example, I like quality meat at the best possible prices. I've wasted money on cheap, inedible meats, so I've learned who has the best prices on the meat I like. On the other hand, I'm not a connoisseur of things like rice and pasta, so I usually buy the cheapest I can find.

Name Brand vs. Generic

I have some name brand items that I simply will  not compromise on. I love Duke's mayonnaise, and I won't settle for anything less, even if the store brand is half the price. I do like Mueller's pasta, because I was raised with it, so I usually stock up during BOGO sales at one store or another, but I will buy store brands if necessary. I only drink name brand herbal teas, but try to stock up when they're cheap.

Canned vs. Frozen vs. Fresh

Living in FL, I stock up on canned foods for hurricanes, and I don't care about the quality of those. I just want to stay alive. I prefer fresh veggies, but keep frozen on hand in case I can't get fresh. I love fresh fruit, but I buy a lot of frozen fruit for smoothies and adding to yogurt.

I can only report on what I actually buy. I don't buy a lot of processed foods, so you won't see many of those.

The Cheapest Stores in My Area by Category

Cheapest Overall: Aldi

I can shop only at Aldi if I must. It's a small store, and about 1/3 of it is taken up with non-food items, so the selections are small.

  • Their produce is nice, and they usually have great sale prices on in-season produce. If you like packaged salad, they have a large section. I buy nearly all my produce there. The bad part is that you have to go early in their sale week (here sales start on Wednesday), because they only buy enough for the sale, and when it's gone, it's gone, so if you want fresh produce, go on the first two days of the sales period.
  • Their meat can be a little high, and they generally sell in big packs. Also, some of their meat is pre-packaged, such as steaks and some roasts, and those are more expensive. They often have good sales on meat, and the quality is good.
  • Dairy is o.k. The store brand Greek yogurt is good, but not a big selection of flavors. Butter and margarine are very cheap. Store brands are good quality.
  • Their cheese is very cheap, even the deli-style cheeses.
  • Frozen foods are relatively cheap, but most of what they have is large family style meals and such. There isn't a great selection of frozen bagged veggies or fruit. 
  • Nuts and baking goods are very cheap and of good quality. I loved their whole almonds with sea salt.
  • I don't buy bread there, because I don't eat a lot and it seems to mold faster, but if you eat a lot of bread, it's very cheap. 

Second Cheapest: Save-a-Lot

I shopped exclusively at Save-a-lot for years, but their quality has gone down on some things while their prices have gone up. They are a much larger store than Aldi and only sell groceries, so there is a much better selection.

  • Produce used to be the cheapest in town, but not anymore. They sometimes have great sales on produce in season, like a 10-lb bag of potatoes for $3-4. Their everyday prices are on par with Wal-Mart, which is not cheap at all anymore.
  • Meat is cheap, and they have great sales, but the quality on some things has gone down, so I no longer buy them there. For example, the large packs of pork chops are mostly what used to be sold as pork steaks, and aren't pork chops at all, just the very cheap end cuts. My favorite cheap meat to buy at SAL is chicken leg quarters. They have 10-lb bags for anywhere from $6.90 down to $2.90 sometimes on sale (at the time of this posting). They have good prices on pork neckbones, but their ham hocks are sort of high, and since they don't have butchers, you can't get a 4-pack cut into two. 
  • Their frozen food section is excellent, and their frozen bagged veggies are good quality. The stir-fry mix is great. 
  • Canned foods are a bit higher than Aldi, but better quality, and there is a better selection.
  • Dairy is not as good quality as Aldi, nor as cheap.
  • Rice and grains are cheaper there, and they have a pretty nice Hispanic food section.

Third Cheapest: Wal-Mart

I shop Wal-Mart for only a few items, mostly name-brand items that they have cheaper.

  • I never buy their meat, because it is shipped in frozen and it contains salt, which holds in the water and makes it weigh more. They do have good frozen seafood prices, but Aldi is about equal in that department.
  • I buy all my name-brand herbal teas there. They have the best prices I've found in town on those. 
  • I tried their Chobani yogurts, but they aren't the same quality as the same brand elsewhere. I supposed they are made just for Wal-Mart as most manufacturers do, with a lesser product for a lower price. Aldi's store brand greek yogurt is better.
  • Frozen fruits for smoothies are cheap and they have a good selection, including tropical fruits like mango and papaya. 
  • Frozen veggies are o.k. I like the frozen potato wedges and the breaded okra there.
  • Bread is cheap, but I don't like the texture of the store brand. 
  • Of course, all processed foods are cheaper, but they do carry a selection of natural brands in each department that are cheaper than at a natural food store.
  • That's about it for what I buy there.

Fourth Cheapest: Publix

I use the word "cheapest" carefully here, because Publix is all about quality over price. I don't buy much there, and usually only things on BOGO (buy one, get one free) or a great sale.
I like their fried chicken, and an 8-pack lasts me for several meals. Otherwise, I don't buy their meats because while they are prime quality, they also have a prime price. I do buy their frozen beef liver, because it's much cheaper and better quality than any other I've found in town.

Things I regularly buy on BOGO at Publix are: 

  • Ken's salad dressings (my favorites)
  • Frozen seafood (fish sticks, shrimp, etc.)
  • Pasta
  • Frozen pizza
  • Ice Cream
  • Mrs. Smith's frozen pies
  • Pepperidge Farm frozen cakes, cinnamon swirl bread
  • DelMonte or Green Giant canned vegetables
  • Spices
  • Herbal tea
  • Mt. Olive or Vlasic pickles

Stores that aren't cheap but have good sales or bulk food.

Earthfare - good bulk section, but expensive unless on sale. Sells bulk herbs and spices at reasonable prices. Often has great sales on organic produce in season. I buy my candied ginger there. I treat myself to their muffins, which are amazing.

Ward's Supermarket - a locally owned store with an amazing bulk foods section. Overall, they are mostly organic and health food and not cheap.

Lucky's - I've only been there a couple of times, but it seemed to have good sale prices. It's not close to me, so don't go there often.

Trader Joe's - I don't shop there because it's too "crunchy granola" for me and the prices aren't that great. Aldi is owned by the same people, and is the "real people's" version of TJ's.

Non Grocery Stores

Dollar General - I buy snack foods, milk, eggs, cleaning and paper products here. I don't buy as much there as I used to, because their prices have gone way up on a lot of things, and they are selling more name brand than store brand now.

Dollar Tree - Some of their frozen foods are good for when you want something quick and easy you can microwave. Some snack foods are cheaper, but you have to be careful. To me, it's mostly good for housewares over groceries.

I don't shop bulk stores like Costco or Sam's Club because I don't have a car and have no space to store bulk items.

So there you have it, my list of my favorite and cheapest stores in my city in Florida. Hope it helps someone.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Change or Die: Huge Life Changes I Must Make to Survive

I know it's been awhile, but I've been doing some serious thinking about what I want my life to be.

I said I was going to move into a two bedroom apartment, but that sort of fell through when I found out that the prices here have gone up DRASTICALLY on those. If I'm going to pay those prices, I need to have more than what is offered here.

Making a Clean Sweep

I've done nothing about decluttering. In fact, I've done nothing, period. I'm super depressed about my life, the state of our country and I've just been paralyzed on moving forward. But now I've made a drastic decision that I won't back down on.

I've decided to get rid of everything and start over. I'm going to devote myself full-time to stripping myself of 95% of my possessions. I want to start back at the beginning where I had nothing and was much happier. I want to go full-on minimalist and stop letting "things" control my life.

Making a Move

While I'm doing all that, I'll be making plans to move. I'm really sick to death of this part of town, where it's very, very hard to make friends or meet your neighbors. It will be more expensive somewhere else, which is why I need to get rid of so much. I'm thinking of having a roommate, maybe two, in an actual house with an actual yard. If I split rent three ways, I can afford it.

Making Money

So towards that goal, I'll have to find a way to make more money, so I'm going to be cranking up the blogs and buckling down to work on doing more affiliate marketing. Don't worry, I won't get obnoxious, but I would appreciate it is you would turn off your ad blockers on this and my gardening site. I won't have any annoying popups, popunders or things that follow you down the page and grey out what you want to read.

Making Myself Healthy

I've already started on a 16:8 intermittent fast, and I'll be starting an exercise program today. I've put this off for way too long, and it's time to get off my fat ass and do something about my health. It will be hard with everything else I have to do, but nothing worth having comes easy. I keep looking in the mirror at my lumpy body and ugly skin and hair and saying "This isn't me. What has happened to me?" It's never to late to be the best you can be.

Why Now?

I need to face the fact that I am soon going to lose my son forever. He's the only family I have, but he's been sucked into the Mormon cult. From everything I read about them, since I'm a pagan, he will soon not be allowed to have anything to do with me, so I need to set myself up to take care of myself in my old age. At 66, this will be hard, and right now, I have no idea how to do it, but I have to try. My only other alternative is to just give up enact my Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan, but I'm not ready to give up yet.

So hang on, it's going to be a wild ride! Hope you will join me.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How I live Well on $1000 a Month - Part 2 - The Financials

In Part 1 of this topic, I talked about why I live like this and what I have and what i had to sacrifice to live on $1000 a month. In this post, I'm going to lay out the financials so you can see where my money goes.


Social Security........................$  789/month
Work ......................................... 250/month
    TOTAL ...............................$1,039 
NOTE: I sometimes make slightly less than $250/month


Rent ............................................$590/month
Utilities ..........................................100/month (average)
Internet .........................................   51/month

Miscellaneous ................................  30-50/month
(includes toiletries, cleaning supplies, household essentials)

Prescriptions .................................$  7.00/month

     TOTAL.......................................$748 (approximate)

Difference .....................................$291

SAVINGS ...................................... $200

Difference ..................................... $ 91
  (Covers clothes, transportation, health supplements, etc. All extra is rolled over and spent on things such as gifts, household items and special treats for myself)

NOTE: Some months I cannot save $200 and have to spend my savings on emergencies, such as earlier this year when my computer died and I had to buy a new one.


  • SNAP..........................................$156/month (presently - it changes depending on my earnings and expenses) 
  • USDA Food Distribution.............. 50/month (estimated - depends on what they have available)
  • Food Bank .................................. 10/month (estimated, depending on what you get)
I don't always get the USDA food distributions or food bank. If I'm dong o.k. that month, I usually don't get them, because they are mostly canned and processed foods, which I try not to eat. I do get them for stocking up for months when the SNAP runs out before the end of the month.

Food Savings Tips

I'm very frugal with my shopping. I shop at stores like Aldi, WalMart, and even pick up some cheap items from Dollar General and Dollar Tree. I buy some bulk foods, herbs and spices from Earthfare, which is expensive, but cheaper per oz. usually than buying them packaged.
  • I don't shop by a menu. I buy what's cheapest on sale, stock up, and build menus around what I have. I found this much cheaper in the long run.
  • I dehydrate or freeze fruit and veggies in season for later use. I don't have a lot of pantry space, so this helps me store more food.
  • I cook 95% of my own meals and make some of my own snacks (mostly baked goods) so I can use less sugar with no preservatives.
  • I don't eat a lot of meat, but when I do, I measure out servings per meal. For example, one large chicken breast is three normal servings, so a pack of 4 on sale is 12 servings.
  • I stretch my food dollars by making soups and stews. I make a 3 qt pot of vegetable soup, and stretch it several times by adding meat, rice or barley. When the veggies finally get too mushy, I blend it up with some cooked garbanzo beans and spices to make hummus.

By using this method, I can usually come out ahead with SNAP at the end of the month, and don't need the extra food bank food.

I'll be writing more on individual savings ideas for things like meat, etc. with recipes, so subscribe in the upper right sidebar to receive notification emails when they are posted.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

How I Live Well on $1,000 USD a Month - Part 1

DISCLAIMER: I know this won't work for everyone in all areas of the country. I live in a college town in Florida, which has very reasonable rent prices.

I'm a senior citizen on Social Security who lives below the poverty level, which in 2018 was $1,012 a month or $12,144 a year. I've made some sacrifices to live this way, but it suits me. I hope some of you can learn something from how I live and apply it to your own lives.

Why I Live This Lifestyle

I have lupus and other health issues that make it impossible to work outside my home, because of so many physical limitations. The last job I had working full time was as a cashier, and I would come home in so much pain, that all I could do was take pain meds and lie on the bed waiting for them to kick in. Living like I do, I no longer have to take prescription pain meds.

When the recession hit, I lost my job, and being over 50, could not find another one. I lost everything -- my house, car, and over a period of 5 years, I had to sell or give away 75% of my possessions. I found work online, and after I began receiving Social Security checks, I decided that having less and living in a smaller place would allow me not to work as much.

What I Don't Have or Do

There are things that I had to give up to be able to live this way. I planned this way of life carefully to provide me with what I need, not necessarily what I want.

A Car - I had to sell my car in 2008 when it broke down and I could not afford to fix it. I've walked or used public transportation ever since. I moved to my current city because it had a better public transportation system. I moved to this neighborhood after 15 months because it's within walking distance to a large number of stores, and during hot or cold weather, I can take a bus to go shopping.
Extra Space - I live in an apartment with 531 sf of interior living floor space. It also has over 350 sf of outdoor living/gardening space. It's the smallest place I've ever lived, but it's comfortable enough. The only part I hate about it is the tiny kitchen, but I'm working on creating space in there. More on that in a later post.
Eat Out - I hardly ever eat out, mostly because I know I can fix the same food cheaper at home, and make it more to my taste. I sometimes do buy a sub or baked/fried chicken from the grocery store deli, but mostly, I eat at  home.
Cable TV - I actually don't have a TV at all. I use my computer for all my audio/video entertainment and I also read.
Travel - since I don't have a car, I can't really travel much. I used to love day trips, but I've found a few places around town on the bus lines that are free or extremely cheap that I love to visit. Our city also has a lot of free activities, like free museums and free concerts in the summer. I haven't yet seen all the wonderful free things available at the University here in town.  I am trying to save up to build a camper mini van, so I can see a bit more of the US, but that's another story.

What I Do Have

Despite having lost so much over a number of years, I have more than some people, and since I collected it over 40+ years, it's much higher quality than someone just starting out would have.

My apartment - It took me 15 months a and bit of luck ot find this apartment. Like I said before, it's small, but it has a beautiful enclosed courtyard and patio that I've turned into my own personal garden space. I also have a "yard" of sorts outside the apartment where I can garden, which is my passion.

My apartment has ceramic tile floors and ceiling fans throughout, central HVAC, a dishwasher, and washer/dryer connections which I don't use.  The best thing is that my rent is only $590 a month. It's gone up only $23 since I moved in 3 years ago. New tenants pay $640 a month, and it will take me 5 more years to get up to that amount, because they only increase your rent $10 a year, as a sort of reward for long-term residency. Management is great, and maintenance is fast and efficient.

Furnishings - I came here with very little furniture, but have been able to pick up quite a few nice pieces free online or by the dumpsters here for my house and garden. I will need to buy a couch sometime soon. I'll do a separate post on all my free furniture finds. I have all the functional and decorative items one could ever want.

My kitchen is completely outfitted, and what I don't have, I can pick up at the nearby Goodwill very cheaply. I just got a 2 qt. Crock Pot, a $50 dehydrator, a toaster, and a nice blender for under $20 total.

Cable Internet - I've had to downgrade from a higher speed to a 10mbps speed due to price hikes, but it works perfectly fine and for something I use for work and most of my entertainment, $44 a month isn't bad. I can deduct part of that on my taxes since I work online.

Proximity to Shopping - We have a huge shopping center a mile from my house that is a mile long and a half mile deep. It has every grocery store you could ever need: Aldi, Trader Joe's, Publix, plus a super WalMart and Sam's Club. It even has a Lowe's. There is absolutely no type of store or restaurant you can't find in this shopping area. During cool weather in the fall and winter, I usually walk there, but it's only 10 minutes away by bus. There is a Goodwill 2 blocks away, and I do a lot of shopping there. The Earthfare is 1/2 mile away, and I get most of my bulk foods, herbs and spices there.

Discounted Bus Fares - Since I'm over 65, I get half-price on most bus fares. A day pass (with transfers) is still $3, but one-way passes are only .75 and monthly passes are $17.50. There are some places it's hard to get to by bus, but they're improving the system every year, adding routes and stops, so if there isn't a bus that goes there this year, there probably will be soon. I have bus stops a block from my house.

Social Services - I get SNAP and Medicare/Medicaid, which includes a drug program with $3.50 generic prescriptions. I use the University medical system for most of my care, but I also have a private GP. My dental care comes through a local ministry that has a dental clinic that does cleanings, fillings, extractions and false teeth. The university dental clinic does everything else for 1/2 the normal market price.

In addition to SNAP, I also avail myself of two USDA food distributions a month, and one food bank pickup a month.

I don't feel guilty about taking help from social services, because I worked my tail off for 40+ years and paid into the system. Now that I'm unable to work full time, I feel extremely lucky to be able to get the benefits I need.

See Part 2 of this post for The Financials


Friday, September 28, 2018

Stopped decluttering, decided to move to a 2 bedroom apartment

I've been through most of my boxes now, and there is no way I can fit all that I want to keep into this 520 sf apartment and have room for my crafts and hobbies. I've made a decision that I simply must have more space, so I'm going to move into a 2-BR apartment in our sister complex. It's not quite as nice as this complex, but it's cheaper.

Of course, I can't have all my gardens over there, so they will have to go, but I'm about sick of gardening anyway. I didn't have room to garden for years, so I went a little overboard in here, and discovered I'd really be happy with just a few potted plants. The new apartment will have a courtyard, but the water is included in the rent, so I won't be able to use as much as I have here.

I'm looking at this like the next step in finding happiness. I thought I would be happy in a smaller space, but I'm not. I really just need room to spread out and not be paying for space I'm not using.

It will take me awhile to get enough money to move, and I'll also have to wait until the right apartment in the right place in that complex comes open, but I'm ready to move on from here.

Stay tuned for more of my journey!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Decluttering: Reclaiming My Bedroom

I used to live in a 1300 sf 3/2/1 house. When I moved, I took a 23 foot long truck full to the brim. I moved to a 2 BR apartment, and never unpacked most of what I took with me, sold a lot of the furniture and left some boxes of things I no longer wanted behind. I moved 4 times in the next five years, I moved five times, and each time, I didn't unpack most of my stuff, and ended up selling or leaving a lot of it behind.

I now have about 1/3 of what I owned when I left my original house, and it's still too much. I live in an adorable 520 sf 1 BR apartment with just enough space to garden. I've been here over three years and my bedroom is stacked with so many boxes and so much furniture that I can't use it as a bedroom.

Fear and Procrastination

The first year I was here, I didn't unpack because I was afraid I was going to have to move again. The second year was the same. I always had that fear that I would have to move, so I kept the boxes unpacked except for a few decorative items and things I needed to live. I have no excuse for the third year, except laziness.

Now, in year four, I've finally decided to get rid of all this crap and live like a normal person, but it's harder than I thought it would be.

Things I Can't Live Without

As I moved from place to place, I rid myself of all the things I could live without. What was left was things I thought I could not live without. I had this grand plan when I moved here to create storage space by going "up" so I wouldn't have to get rid of anything. The problem with that is, there is no room to go "up" in the ways I need to, so I'm stuck.

As I go through boxes, I discover there are many things I can actually do without, but I have this overwhelming urge to sell most of it. My mind keeps telling me that it's too much trouble, and I should just donate it all and take the time saved by not having to take pictures and put it all online to make probably more money than i would have made by selling it. Unfortunately, the part of my brain that is ashamed of having wasted all this money on things I shouldn't have bought and never really needed isn't allowing me to just give them away.

But there are things I can't live without, mostly sentimental things, so I have a lot of "keep" boxes as well. So far, the "keep" and "sell" boxes far outnumber the "donate" boxes. I think I'm just going to have to get really tough with myself and let go of some of the "sell" stuff.

Double Decluttering

The plan is to go back through all the "keep" boxes and find more I can part with. I'm seriously thinking of getting a storage space for the keep boxes until I can get the house set up to hold what's in them. I need shelving and such, and I can't even get that sort of stuff into the room right now.

I know that you're not supposed to go back through boxes, and I'm not doing it with things that I'm donating or selling, but I'm sure I probably decided to keep things on the spur of the moment that I don't actually need, so I can further pare down my possessions.

The plan is to have this all done by the end of the year, but that may be overly optimistic. I'll do the best I can, though. I'm ready to pare my life down to just what I will use or things that my heart cannot bear to part with.