breezewood proving grounds

The Adventure Begins

Well, it’s one thing to think about it — another to plan it out — but it’s really amazingly fun to actually do it.

So far there are no regrets, and we are hoping that all works out well with this new adventure.   It has technically begun with the purchase of the RV/Motor Home that we will be traveling in — and here he/she (yet to be determined) is!

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The plan was always to get one of these amazingly built motor homes that use a Diesel Cummins engine and which can pull with ease and travel a million miles or more!

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AND…. yes, that is RED – and we understand the first owner had it painted that color on purpose and we LOVE it.   It’s a home that sleeps 8, and has a 12 foot garage on the back with wonderfully made and built in tool boxes.  The interior isn’t as colorful – but over time that could change (smile) as we laugh, and sing, cook and enjoy our adventure.

One thing I can be certain of — you will see us coming and recognize us wherever we go!

Moving On to Retirement

This is more scary post to write than an annoying one.

Everyone ages and we all have to face the retirement or not portion of our lives.  Some of us have saved – some of us have yet to start – but I’ll bet most of us are somewhere in between.

In my case, I have an IRA in which I have saved for retirement, and I will be old enough to qualify for social security in just a few years ( and …if it’s still available).

The scary part is that my husband and I have always worked and provided for ourselves – we worked for a company that we started over 30 years ago.  I still do.  This company provided everything we needed to live and raise our family.   And in the good years provided for quite a few others as well.  It will feel both strange and unusual to have money coming in to our bank account, or out of our IRA’s without working  — because taking it out, using it up – even though that was the intention when we saved it – seems contrary to everything we did up till now to prepare for this phase of our lives.

One thing I am not consciously worried about is making it on that amount of money.  Besides always trying to live “under” our means, and saving, we have for the last five to seven years cut back on everything.

But the reality is, that in the next year or so, we are going to officially, fully and completely retire from life as we have known it for so many wonderful years.

What are we going to do with ourselves?  Glad you asked.  We are right now looking into obtaining a Motor Home” to facilitate our desire to see the United States from end to end.  A bucket list item that was impossible to fulfill when you own your own business and it’s the only source of your income.

We will buy a used  motor home specifically designed to fit our needs.  We need to have a “garage” so that we can fit the gear (4 wheelers, etc.) that we want to take with us, as well as our sons family.  We will travel the US, stopping and staying for a periods of time and then moving on.  With no clock to punch, no deals to make and no familiar annoyances – I think we might even enjoy this thing called retirement while we are all still “young” enough to do it!

And maybe… I’ll blog about all the annoying things I find along the way!

 

Life’s Getting Confusing

I am getting older — oh… wait, we all are getting older. See already I might be confused. I know I didn’t think for one minute that I was the only one getting older, or being confused. Right?

With all the gadgets hitting the market today – is it any wonder that for someone my age it’s not intuitive anymore. I used to think that I could figure things out. Figure anything out. That there was always a simple way to accomplish just about anything, by usually just proceeding one step at a time – in the right direction.

However, I just don’t get it anymore. Do you reach an age where this happens to everyone, or is that the “brain power” needed just doesn’t want to cooperate to figure it out anymore.

In the last few years there have been lots of changes – not only in cell phones but in everything. Now things that are just a year old in some cases are already becoming obsolete. Hey I remember when fax machines were a novelty and we all thought that might eliminate the need for mailing any paperwork again…ever. It was just the 1980’s when microcomputers were just getting into the hands of “regular” people…. and it wasn’t that long ago that almost everything started to become “wireless”.

But for me life isn’t becoming easier or less confusing. Part of that is because I didn’t run to get each new gadget as it appeared on the scene, and I am still not sure of some of the technology. It may save time, but at what risk to you or others.

I am thinking about a woman found dead in her garage some six years after she had passed away. All the money she had was “used” up by the companies who had access to her bank account for payment of her bills. So month after month while she decomposed in the garage, her bank account was paying for things she didn’t need, or want, or could even use. No one came to look for her, no one seemed to care if she lived or died – and it wasn’t till everything she had was used up that they finally checked on that house (after foreclosing on it) and found her dead. I think the whole scenerio was caused by this new technology craze. If she didn’t have “automatic” bill pay – they would have found her so much sooner and her heirs would have had some inheritance, and closure. So while this one “technology” inspired “service” takes some pressure off us humans, it can also leave us dead in our garage while it cleans out our bank account.

And that’s just the beginning of the confusing part for me. If you think about some of the other “advances” in the way things are done, you can see that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The pressure however is on. The credit card companies want you to have automatic bill pay… so you won’t forget and they won’t have to charge you $39 for being late, and 29.9% interest. But what most people don’t realize is that they can “manipulate” their side of the system, so they make you late, and cause you that problem a few times…. and then make you feel pressured into signing up.

In my case it has happened at least twice. AND their “standard” answer is, “sign up for auto pay”…. and mine, “NO way”. I am signed up for reminders and I don’t get them. I go online and set up a payment and it never happens… it just never happens that the payment actually gets made. Their answer: “Oh there was a computer issue that day”…. or “Oh your session might have timed out before our system took the information”, or “Oh there was a solar flare that day…” etc. I cannot believe for one moment it’s only my account that is subjected to such manipulation.

I remember having an AMEX card and cancelling it after my payment (back in those days it was a check you mailed in) .. took more than 20 days each month to get to them. NO … I never thought it really took that long, I think they just didn’t process the payment, or mark it PAID till it was late. Why? To get the late charges and interest, which many customers still today do not question or request they remove.

After it happened twice, I cancelled the card.

If you know me, and maybe you don’t – I pay on time, in full and I don’t play games. That might be the reason I was and am a target for the credit card companies to hassle. I don’t ever pay to have a card, and I don’t pay interest ever and sometimes I even get benefits.

They don’t want a customer like me — and that confuses me.

Harris Teeter Super Doubles Trip

I know that most of you are looking for something annoying to read – sorry not today.  Instead,  I wanted to share my Harris Teeter Super Doubles Shopping trip because it shows that anyone really can do it.

First, if you want to just go to the store with all your coupons and walk around checking prices and matching – that’s certainly up to you, but I much prefer the prepared approach.  Why?  I don’t have to keep walking around the store finding the great deals or spend hours in the store — I let someone else do that for me.

This is also not my regular shopping trip – the trips this week are specifically tailored to the Super Double Event.  To prepare I read several blogs that list the “Harris Teeter match-ups”.  I find these by just typing into my search engine “Harris Teeter match ups and the date the sale starts”.  These blogger sites go to almost extreme lengths to not only to find what’s going to be on sale, but also which coupons match up with the sales, and therefore can get you the best shopping trip …ever (or at least a really good one!).  Some of the sites just match up a few of the best deals for the week, and others provide more — like unadvertised sales and coupon match-ups.  Some even provide the “free with coupons list” or the “under $1.00 lists”.  I find all of these valuable and am so glad they are able to do them for me and the other Harris Teeter shoppers. 

While searching their lists – if I find something I want or need, I will use the provided link (if there is one) and print out a coupon for that item.  I also go up to the Harris Teeter website and check out the E-VIC (their loyalty program) to see if there are any coupons I want to add to my card (these are called ZVR).  ZVR coupons are taken off automatically at the register when you use your card and buy the specific products and are in addition to your printed/doubled coupons.  These sometimes will make an item totally free, and other times even make you a small profit. If you have other cards that give you points, bonuses or rewards or where you can add coupons to your cards – you might want to check those out as well.

NOTE: You must have an E-VIC card to be eligible for the Super Doubles, and sign up online to take advantage of the ZVR coupons.

I always read several of the blogs looking mostly for products I use (first choice) and then for products that with the coupon are free.  Sometimes there are tons of choices, and sometimes not so many.  If there are only a few deals I can do, I don’t even go unless the products are everyday ones we use (think coffee, paper towels, toilet paper, cat food). If I find a lot – I will usually make up to about 4 trips in the 7 days of the sale.  Remember, coupon redemption is limited to just 20 which can be doubled in a day, and so 4 trips = 4 different days.

When doing this I make as many 20 coupon lists as I can.  I go with one list, which has the product, the price, and the coupon I have that match up (and I put the coupons in the order of the list).  I know I should put the list in the order the store is laid out, but I find there are differences in the different Harris Teeters and so far I haven’t gone that far — and haven’t needed to!  If they are out of one of the products on list one, I then go to the next list and pack of coupons to see if I can find something in that one to substitute.  I am rarely prepared to take advantage of a surprise sale on something, but I always can get my 20 items – which makes the trip more efficient for me.

My 04/24/14 Harris Teeter Super Doubles Trip
My 04/24/14 Harris Teeter Super Doubles Trip

So let’s see what I was able to do this time.

3 Quaker BIG Chewy Bars, 6 Old Spice Deodorant (one coupon for 2 products), 3 Colgate Toothpaste, 1 Bar of Lava Soap, 3 L’Oreal Advanced Shampoo or Conditioner, 2 L’Oreal Advance Styling Products, 3 Vidal Sassoon Styling Products, 1 Dr. Scholls full innersoles, 2 Mahatma Rice Products (1 coupon on 2)… and then 2 Venus Razor Refills and 2 Snickers bars.  The Venus Razor refills were marked down to $6.24 each and I had one $4.00 coupon and one $5.00 coupon which I used on those (you almost never find them marked down) and I used 2 free coupons for the Snickers Bars.

Grand total for my trip?  $6.78 (tax was $2.97 of that).  You can see on my list I had a ZVR of $2.00 taken off this trip.   It says coupons tendered $105.43, but that might include the sales items, and my extra coupons for my Venus refills, snickers bars and ZVR.

Harris Teeter receipt
Harris Teeter receipt

Yes, I totally enjoyed that trip.  Thank you Harris Teeter for having the Super Doubles event, and especially for not being out of stock of the coupon items.

So do you have a Harris Teeter by you?  Or another store that doubles up to $2.00 face value? 

**Disclosure: I was not paid by anyone to write this article, nor was I influenced in any way – all opinions expressed here are 100% mine.

Health Care ~ It’s Annoying ~ Update

Last year when I wrote about our Health Care issues,  I was seriously wondering what we (my husband and I) would do.  I had no idea that there was a way we could and would be able to pay for the health care under the new and revised plans available through the government marketplace.  Our  company premiums were prohibitive since the change and the coverages were not any better.  So we had no choice but to cancel our company policy and no longer provide health care to our employees.

But, in the end, we may be the only people you know of who are benefiting from the health care reform.  HEALTH2And for those who think no one has benefited, I will relate our story.

As I might have mentioned previously (Original Post) for the last 29 years we provided 100% healthcare to our employees, everyone qualified and everyone received it at “no cost” to them. Our company paid all of the premium. Not one employee had to pay one cent for their coverage and we always got the best plan we could afford to cover them.

As the years rolled on, the economy tanked, our employee numbers tumbled, our average age increased, and our premiums increased  — we were only able to keep them in check by lessening the coverages overall, for everyone.  We got to the point we had $2500 deductibles, and that meant every cent of the first $2500 had to be paid before you were able to even do a co pay or have some help with your tests or medications.  It wasn’t ideal, it was the only way we could still provide 100% coverage without asking for a contribution from the employees.  None of my employees ever complained about their coverage, even though many of them went from amazingly great coverage to simply adequate coverage over the years.

So the decision was made and the company plan was cancelled.  Leaving everyone to fend for themselves.

My husband and I used the government marketplace to find a plan and also check to see if we were eligible for a subsidy.  We were!  We now both have coverage (because of our subsidy) that costs us a lot less than our coverage with the company plan.  The coverage we were able to obtain has a LOW deductible, LOW out of pocket costs, and pays for many standard things with 0% copay as long as you stay in network.   We might never had even had a plan this good in all the years of having a company plan — and our out of pocket costs are lots less than before.

I almost hesitated signing up.  I mean it was “too good to be true” and you know you should always be careful if something works out that way.  But we are now into that new coverage, I have had to use it and it has been amazing.

If I told you the amount we have to pay – you too would be amazed!   The amount you pay and the plans you are offered are affected by many factors. The state and the county you live in, the amount of money you make, your ages and other factors all play into what type of subsidy you might get (not everyone qualifies).  We happen to hit the sweet spot in all the categories.  We are still not planning on making many Dr. visits this year — but at least we know – if we need to, we can afford to get just about anything done we need — as long as we make sure we stay in network.

If you are out there wondering if you would benefit from this … there are rules and qualifications.  We had to cancel our company plan before we could even look into this as an alternative for us.  So if you have a plan available to you, even though you have to contribute to it, you won’t qualify.   If you make too much money, don’t have enough of an offset with dependents, etc. as well as other issues not mentioned here —  all of those things can affect your results…..  but if you don’t have a plan, you shouldn’t hesitate to go check out your options.  You can do it on the government website without actually signing up — there are several “estimators” you can use to check what might be available to you.  And don’t forget to check to see if you qualify for a subsidy — for us it really worked out!

Disclosure: I was not paid by anyone to write this article. The information contained here reflects our personal experience and does not presume to know or be able to advise you on yours.