My Creed

"I thank God for protecting me from what I thought I wanted and blessing me with what I didn't know I needed." Anonymous

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Having A Social Life Without The Social Price Tag

Oh! The joys of 'Happy Hour'. I'm finding out that my new-found friends have discovered the secret to getting together over drinks without the connected price tag that usually goes along with it (drinks out can be mighty expensive!)

It's called 'Happy Hour' and almost all of the local restaurants here happily indulge their patrons. Many drinks/cocktails/beer or wine are heavily price-reduced for two hours a day, usually late afternoon between 4PM and 6PM.  Many restaurants also have a reduced-priced menu to go along with their drinks. Those two combinations: low cost cocktails and top shelf, reduced-priced menu items make for a very nice afternoon where you can catch up with your friends without breaking your retirement bank roll. Whoever invented this social phenomenon, in my book, is a genius! Thank you!

DH and I met some of our friends the other day at an exclusive restaurant during Happy Hour. I had my fave cocktail, a black raspberry Cosmopolitan, for only five bucks! Normally, this drink sells between $12 and $14 (I've seen it for $18 a few times!). The Happy Hour menu included many of the restaurants notoriously expensive dishes with starting prices of only $3.95! How cool is that? Apparently, my fellow retirees sure know how to live!

We were a party of eight, happily crammed into a booth (the waiter told us in order to get the Happy Hour selections, we had to remain in the bar area and not deep inside the restaurant......which was fine with us!). Good conversation, lots of laughs, lots of cocktails and food flowing ($5 burgers, $4 flat bread pizzas, $6 shrimp scampi to name a few of the choices). It was a lovely, enjoyable two hours.

I can get used to living like this.

And I will.

Who knew?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Living Room Reveal

I have to say that of all the rooms I have decorated in my life time, my current condo living room has been the most difficult. The room dimensions made it almost impossible for any symmetry. What worked on one side of the room, did not work on the opposite. I had to contend with trying to keep an open floor plan, not block a massive sliding glass door which opened up to the lanai and water view, proper placement of the big screen (60" Vizio HD 4K, rated #1 (click here)) TV. I knew I wanted comfort in the living room, proper seating arrangement and I had to answer the call of a recliner for my husband (which is really den material....not living room material).

Anyway, the condo is done. As done as it is ever going to be. To top it all off, when I finally received delivery of the two upholstered chairs, one of them had a deep cut in the back cushion, and it had to be returned and replaced. More delays. Since we decided the self-moving costs ($3,000) were too expensive to transport our eleven year old furniture, we opted to buy 'new'. Some items were purchased at local consignment shops. Some items were purchased brand new. We filled in the gaps with either Goodwill or a de-cluttering from our main residence (dishes, silverware, odds & ends).  All big ticket items were put on zero percent financing for 12 months.

The living room (Cindy Crawford collection) and guest room, however, came from mostly one source, Rooms To Go and we opted for their five year zero financing, which comes out to just $47 a month. In retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't put my whole condo furniture purchases on Rooms To Go, as most of my neighbors did. The five year zero financing would have been ideal in keeping my monthly budget costs low now that my husband is out of work due to health problems. Who knew?

I matched the pillows to the chairs for a 'designer' look.

I couldn't get the 2 upholstered chairs close to each other.

This $10 Goodwill find, a hand painted parrot watercolor was the inspiration
DH on his recliner, remote in hand, with his dog, watching giant big screen TV

Here's what we've spent to date. I consider our expenditures closed, as of now! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Contentment. Do You Have It?

Do you cringe in either resentment or jealousy when one of your friends or family posts/shares some good news on their social media page? We all know that looks can be deceiving but many of us don't take the time to investigate or figure out what really is at the bottom line of truth. Odds are very good that what you are seeing isn't always precisely what you are getting. You're not losing because another person is winning. Stop comparing yourself to others and start living your own life of contentment as soon as possible. Like, right now!

What is 'contentment'. One dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” Today it is rare that we find anyone who is truly content with his or her condition in life. The Bible has a great deal to say about contentment—being satisfied with what we have, who we are, and where we’re going. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” 

Contented people don't always have the best of everything. BUT they make the best of everything. Contentment is both a spiritual and emotional thing. It's the knowledge of knowing you have 'enough'. Don't look at what other people have. Look to yourself and see what YOU have. In other words, count your blessings. Not theirs. 

I've had my share in life of dealing both with people who were jealous of me and people I was jealous of. Eventually I came to terms with my own feelings of resentment. I don't care what other people think or do. I don't need their opinions. I feel confident in my own achievements and accomplishments. Am I the best? Not always. But I give it my best. And in the end, to me (and to you), that's all that truly matters. 

What do contented people look like? They are satisfied and at peace with their lives. They aren't always drumming up excuses and justifications as to why their lives are the way that they are. Contentment means being happy with your choices and owing others nothing. We live in a society that has the spirit of entitlement. People think they deserve things.  Nothing can be further from the truth. It's perfectly fine to have nice things in life but don't let those things, or the pursuit of those things, take over your life and become the main focus. Looks can be very deceiving.

Yesterday, DH and I drove by this very nice house that had it's garage door open. Inside we could see two parked, brand new cars. One was a Lexus and the other was a Chevrolet 442 which has a value of at least $65,000. My husband said 'those people are rich!' Without missing a beat, I responded that the people had car loans on both their vehicles and looking at the quality of the house, the owners were probably drowning in debt. The collars didn't match the cuffs. The owners weren't fooling anyone but themselves. There was no reason why DH, or anyone else for that matter, to be jealous. 

Each time a friend or foe posts yet another photograph of some glorious, all-inclusive fabulous vacation, I shake my head in disgust. It's quite clear to me that for someone to travel so much and exclusively, they clearly aren't contented people. They aren't happy in their own home, in their own place, in their own surroundings. Someplace else is always better, always hipper, always more exciting. I should cringe in jealousy and envy, but I don't. And I won't. Because I know that unless someone can bloom where they've been planted, all the traveling in the world will NOT give them the same peace and contentment that I already own and possess. 

I gave up comparison living a long, long time ago. I stopped comparing myself to others and for the first time ever, I started living my very own contented life. I'm quite happy to be who I am, where I am from and where I am going. I'm very happy for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me and my family. I don't feel entitled. I don't feel as if I deserve anything. Nothing is forever. Nothing lasts forever. I find joy in both the good and the bad. 

Once you achieve true contentment in your life, it won't take you more than a micro-second to spot those who are not authentic. They will stick out like a sore thumb (or sore loser). There are no justification stories large enough for them to spin nor explain away their sad, pitiful, lost lives. No photograph that will stir up any feelings of resentment in you. For you will know the truth. 

They are fooling no one except themselves.

Bloom where you have been planted and achieve true contentment in your life.

Life well. And prosper, my friend.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Living The Dream: The Allure Of The Cowgirl

Meet Melody: Modern Day Princess Cowgirl. Melody is living her dream of owning a ten acre ranch, sharing it with her husband and four horses (as well as several cats and dogs). Her entire property and home is dedicated to the nurture and care of her beloved horses. When I asked Melody if her husband helped her out, 'occasionally' was her response. 
At the cost of $10,000 per year, per horse, this powerhouse of a woman does an impeccable job of managing her home, her career and her horses. Melody was gracious to invite fifteen members of the LWR Photography Club to her Painter Palm Ranch for a lovely afternoon of photographing both her horses and her amazing, perfectly manicured ten acres.

Here are some of my photos:

The front gate to Melody's ranch

Melody's sprawling home
Melody taking the photography group onto the ranch

Melody introducing group to her pinto
Melody has 3 horses today, as one has recently passed

Brown pinto (black pinto in background)

simply grazing

two horses, one behind the pinto

looking out the back of the stable

stopping for a photo op

the setting sun's shadow was captured on their tails

searching for that carrot slice on top of fence

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ladies Night Out

Last Thursday, I had the good fortune of joining my newly made girlfriends at a local grille (The Ranch Grill) for a little R&R. It was Ladies Night and drinks (beer & wine) were half price.

It was also taco night and beef tacos were only .99 cents!

So, I had a Miller Lite beer (on tap) for only $1.25, and three beef tacos (with all the fixings.....salsa, guacamole, sour creme) for only $2.97. My total bill for a lovely evening out with the girls came to $4.22.

Good food, a great ice cold beer, good company, great conversation, good music (a hint of karaoke in the back ground) and I had just what the doctor ordered: a perfect evening out (without breaking the bank).
Gosh, I so needed that!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Endless Farmer's Market

Every weekend, behind the local flea market, The Red Barn (click here), regional farmers set up shop and sell their produce at fantastically low prices. Since this is Florida and the weather is good most year round, growing seasons can be endless. The quality of the fruits and vegetables here are top notch, as far as I am concerned. The prices are even better. Most produce is simply a dollar. DH and I go every weekend to stock up, keeping our food budget low and our health quality high.

There are several vendors so prices are competitive

We found that Vargas Produce is the best choice for us

This week's haul for only $8

Friday, September 23, 2016

When Retailers Offer 0% Financing, Is It A Good Deal?

From time to time, when I've been faced with the challenge of a rather large expenditure, such as buying an appliance or furniture, I will admit that I've taken on 0% financing in order to make the purchase happen. Before I, or anyone for that matter, signs of the dotted line, I make sure I read the fine print and know exactly what I am getting myself into.

It's no secret that credit card companies spend lots of money on research and development in mastering the art of relieving you from your hard earned money. The credit card companies will loan you credit at 0% because they know that 62% of you or I will default.  The interest due won't be on what you have left that you owe. You will owe all that lovely interest back from the very beginning of the loan.  If you read the fine print regarding interest rates, you may find yourself owing an exorbitant fee upwards of 25%.

Many of these deferred-interest loans will give you 6, 12 or 18 months to pay it back. My advice to you, if you are thinking about utilizing zero percent financing, is to sit down and actually read the fine print of the offer. See how many months the credit card company is giving you to pay back the loan and then calculate your monthly payments by dividing your borrowed amount by one month less than the offer. That's what I do. I make sure I won't get caught up in a miscalculated payment schedule. If the loan is for 12 months, I pay it back in 11. If the loan is for 6 months, I pay it back in 5.

Look at the date the credit card expects final payment. They're pretty sneaky. For example: on one card I had, the monthly payment was due on the 28th of each month yet the final payoff date was due on the 6th of the month. So, if I had paid my final payment, as I had since the beginning, on the 28th of the month, my last payment would have been considered late and then all the interest (calculated at 29.999% on $3,000) would have become due. Told ya! Those credit card companies are sneaky indeed!

I also recommend you look at your monthly statements. Make sure you are on your self-imposed payment schedule and everything is being posted correctly. Once I utilize a zero interest credit card to pay off a large purchase, I do NOT use that card for anything else. That's another way the credit cards confuse your payments. They don't properly post your payments and apply it to the zero interest part of your loan. This is done on purpose, so it's best never to use the card until your zero balance loan has been paid off in full. A deferred-interest loan is a gamble against time. Play by the rules, and you get a no-interest loan. However, if you go too late on a payment, misinterpret the payoff date or lose your ability to pay, you could end up with a hefty interest rate, plus retroactive interest added to the bill.

Not all zero percent financing however is bad. It can be used to pay off high interest debt, it can help you get your finances under control and/or as in my case, afford me to purchase big ticket items without dipping into my own personal savings. It's wiser for me to use their money (the bank's), rather than my own. In my example, however, should I ever get in to trouble and not be able to pay my loan off in time, I have the cash reserves to back me up. I can pay back the debt in full should the need arise. 

To read more about zero percent financing and learn about the five things you need to know about these types of loans before you sign on the dotted line, click on this link. I've wrestled with myself on how to categorize these type of 'loans' in my own budgetary format. Personally, I don't consider zero percent financing to be a loan. To me, it's just another bill. Just another expense. For example: If I have purchased a refrigerator for $1,000 and I get 12 months to pay it off at zero percent, I divide the amount due (plus the fee of usually 3%, which would be $30 in this case=$1030) by 11 payments. I tack the $93.64 payment onto my monthly expenses. It's just another bill to me. 
I have a certain amount of income per month that I can dedicate to this type of loan structure without pulling cash out of my savings account. At the end of 11 months, the refrigerator is paid in full and my savings account has continued to earn interest (even if just a paltry 1% or so). To me, it's more important to have as much cash as possible in my savings account. I don't give a hoot about taking on zero percent financing. Once the zero percent is paid off, next month I put that previously ear-marked money into my savings account.

Be forewarned: sometimes getting a zero-based interest loan can lower your FICO score. Why that happens is ludicrous because you are just exchanging one credit card for another. Your debt isn't going higher. It's just being exchanged. Nonetheless, your credit score may get damaged.  Many times, that available line of credit on your new card is equal to the total you're purchasing. So, in essence, "you're opening up a maxed-out credit card, which doesn't look good on your credit report".

Again, me personally? I live debt free so I really don't care about credit scores. I don't need a mortgage anytime soon nor in the future. Ditto for car loans and other types of loans. If a credit company wants to offer me zero financing whenever I make a large purchase, who am I to say no? Provided I follow the rules, I'll be fine. And of course, I have the cash to back up my purchase should I ever go astray.