As I mentioned in my last post, I don’t know if I can retire early or if this is a temporary break in my career. I do know that quitting in the middle of a pandemic and recession at the old age of 50 is NOT smart.
From now until my last day, I am taking small steps to make the transition to one income as painless as possible.
1. I looked up my husband’s health plan. It looks fairly comprehensive and affordable but I would need to find new doctors.
2. I cancelled AAA membership. $33 refund coming.
3. At the recommendation of Grumpy Rumblings, I am reading Crucial Conversations, an excellent book about communications. I think it’s too late to make a difference with my boss, but I definitely want to use the book’s tactics in the future.
Five years ago I wrote a post about retirement at age 50, not by choice (FIRE) but due to a layoff and age discrimination. Now I think early retirement might be in the cards.
First, my company is not doing well this year due to COVID 19. The economic situation looks dire for my sector. Even if the economy rebounds, I think reducing expenses for 2021 will be a company priority.
Secondly, I am not on good terms with my manager.
To sum it up, my boss has a tendency to focus on others’ mistakes – major, minor and imaginary. By imaginary, I am referring to anything s/he perceives as a mistake simply because s/he would have done it differently.
S/he has admitted at times that many of his/her corrections are personal preferences, which would be fine if s/he didn’t view these as mistakes on my part.
There are two sides to every story and I’ve made my share of mistakes. However I am not the first employee to have a strained relationship with this person. One of her/his employees abruptly quit one day after a particularly nasty email from my boss. Two others complained about him/her around the same time, causing a supervisor to express concern about her/his management and communicate style. S/he tried to change for a while and then slipped back to old ways.
My confidence has plummeted as a result of thisstrained relationship. I also have contend with a newer, superstar employee. My boss takes every opportunity to reward and praise her (via employee recognition, public praise in group emails or at meetings with higher ups, etc). I get it. She is hard working, smart, enthusiastic, and very nice. She volunteers for extra projects with a smile.
To the best of my knowledge, my boss hasn’t badmouthed me to others. However I am sure others have noticed the myriad of accolades for one and the dead silence for me and my work.
My mentor has encouraged me to prove my value at work and make myself more visible to others. I have tried on some level and it helps. However, I need to really up my game if I want a chance for a transfer to another manager or get a promotion.
But even before COVID 19, I was on the fence about advancing my career. Now that I’m working from home with two young kids, I am struggling to stay productive. I have two major projects and certainly don’t have time or desire to volunteer for extra projects. My boss is childless and not at all understanding toward working parents.
Part of me really hopes that I land a better job with a great boss. However, my gut feeling is that job searching in your 50s (without managerial experience) is a losing proposition. Another part of me wants to retire and not deal with work-related politics and bull#$!# anymore.
I don’t know if I can muster enthusiasm for any type of office job. The protests have opened my eyes to other possibilities. I could contribute my time and skills to advancing racial justice, instead of selling things to make our company even richer.
The extra time at home also makes me realize I am needed at home. My husband tries his best but patience is not his strong point. I want to grow a vegetable garden, learn to prune, teach my kids, even learn to sew. I don’t want to compete for my boss’s favor and constantly feel second best in a never-ending rat race.
Of course the final piece of the puzzle is finances. Can we afford for me to retire? If medical insurance and cost was not a factor, the answer is maybe. I need to crunch some numbers and figure out what is realistic…
My goal was to get rid of 1 thing a day, or 365 items by year-end. Progress had been slow due to other priorities and difference of opinion with my partner about what stays or goes.
Then Covid-19 happened…
Goodwill stopped accepting donations, I stopped selling on OfferUp, and school closing left us quarantined with super needy, bored kids.
Below is a list of things we’ve gotten rid of in 2020 so far…
Sound system (sold $200)
Guitar (sold $200?)
Heart rate monitor (sold $15?)
Phone wall charger (sold $10?)
Kitchen shelves (sold)
Compact mirror (gifted)
Silk shirt with rips (repurposed)
Bags of kid clothing (sold, donated or trashed depending on condition)
Light fixtures (2, donated)
Toy Blocks (sold $5?)
Guess who Board game (donated)
Kid sneakers (new, sold)
Box of books (donated)
USB drive (gifted)
Old leather purse (donated)
Ipad case (donated)
Old bedsheets (trash)
10 year old lip gloss (trash)
Christmas candle (donated)
Laminated picture cards or PECs for ABA (free)
Old backpack (trash)
Old hammock (trash)
Legos (sold $5)
Fencing wood (free)
5 Terracotta pots (free)
Below is stuff that we accumulated during the same time period (not including toiletries and necessities). I always try to include taxes in the total.
COVID-19 QUARANTINE Spending begins at item #16.
Large indoor plant ($120?)
Large gray planter
Children books (4 used)
Laptop bag ($27.60 used , eBay)
Fake hedges for privacy ($58)
Recycling bins (2 for $38) because cardboard boxes won’t do
Replacement cellphone for GPS tracking purposes ($50 + shipping)
Light fixture for kitchen
Sweater (secondhand, $53 plus shipping)
Athletic sneakers ($100)
Small heater ($40 new)
Computer keyboard ($38)
4 sensory friendly bodysuits for kid (on sale! I couldn’t resist)
Two plush toys ($15 new, ebay)
Hammock (new, $40?)
Patio dining table (new, $200)
Patio dining chairs (4 new, $300)
Kid clothes (new $68 total incl. shipping)
Bicycles (2 new, $84 each?)
Small folding table (new, $43, replacement)
Inflatable pool ($101)
Bubble machine ($20)
Electric air pump ($24)
Swim trunks (2 new, $28 total)
Rash guards (BOGO, new, about $16)
Pajama sets (4 new, $46?)
Sneakers (1 pair, new, $40)
Safety latches ($7)
Balls (2 new, $12)
Overalls (1 used, $40)
Shrubs and 2 plants ($220)
Shower curtain (new, $60 including shipping and tax; supports independent artists)
File cabinets (2 used, $80)
As you can see, more items came into our household than out. A big decluttering failure. I thought that many of my purchases are secondhand but the list clearly shows that isn’t true. I have to make more effort to buy less and used!
Are you currently decluttering or cluttering your home?Has COVID 19 impacted your spending habits?
I have re-focused my charitable giving to organizations that fight for racial justice, especially for black people. At the same time, I want to continue giving to causes such as special needs, schools/education, domestic abuse, and child abuse.
Anyway my donation list is short, amounts are small, but it will grow… The truth is I probably dropped more money in one zulily.com shopping trip than all the donations below combined.
On non-money related front, I am educating myself to be an ally, following BLM and other similar organizations. I signed up to volunteer but have yet to join a protest. I really hope to join one soon because it is vital that all races show up for this fight.
Like many people, I have been aware of institutional racism and police brutality against black people for years. I was angered by the injustices and lack of accountability for so many lives. Yet until George Floyd, the names of previous black victims and circumstances surrounding their murders disappeared from my mind.
The George Floyd video is not something you ever forget…Eight minutes of a man being choked to death, gasping his last words, helpless bystanders who yelled but could not do more, four dispassionate murderous cops who may walk free one day.
I complain about U.S.healthcare costs a lot and for good reason. However I also have a selfish reason for my anger against the current system.
Sometimes it isn’t about my inability to pay a high medical bill; it’s that I simply don’t want to…in the same way I don’t want to spend more than X amount for a leather purse. (My personal purse price threshold is $300 but I only paid that much one time)
Of course there is an obvious difference between healthcare and consumer goods/services. You can easily walk away from a pretty purse; it is not so easy (or wise) to walk away from a specialist visit or medical testing ordered for your benefit.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my cousins saved big bucks on a MRI when she bypassed the insurer-approved radiology lab and went to a profit-drive MRI center that advertised $250 per test.
Most people with insurance, however, will go to the doctor-recommended radiology lab. They will likely pay even more than someone without insurance who gets a “cash price”. Healthcare providers routinely set higher prices to offer discounts to insurance companies. To me, it is no better than price gouging.
Sure, there are business costs for operating a medical practice. However, operating costs alone do not explain the disparity in pricing. If you want to compare apples to apples, search for a medical procedure and average pricing in your area. You will be astounded by the wide range of prices.
Healthcare providers don’t offer a consistent reason for their pricing practices. And because healthcarepricing is shroud in secrecy, they do not have incentive to offer competitive prices.
Most Americans probably feel that the radiology lab and other healthcare providers are entitled to make a profit. However the question is how much is enough….10% profit? 50%? 1000% or higher? A transparent marketplace would allow consumers to compare and give incentive to offer fairer prices.
As I said, it is the lack if transparency and unjustifiable high prices that bothers me the most. I’d rather spend my hard-earned money on a pair of shoes…No, just kidding. I would probably spend it on home renovations.
Hopefully you never have to get a brain or spine MRI. However if your doctor recommends one, you should know that you can save hundreds by choosing a for-profit MRI center.
I didn’t even know about low-cost MRI options until recently. Like many Americans, I would have gone to the radiology lab referred by my doctor, or at least one that is in-network with my insurance company.
That reasoning made sense in the good old days, when your insurance company co-pay would likely be the best deal. If someone has pricing amounts from 10 or so years ago, let me know!
Nowadays, many people pay through the nose even if they have employer-sponsored health insurance, especially those with high deductibleplans (HDP). As the name indicates, HDP insurance plans have low premiums but high deductibles (a specified amount of money that the insured must pay before an insurance company will pay a claim). It is intended to incentivize people to compare prices for healthcare services.
One of my favorite cousins has a high deductible plan with a 30% co-insurance for most services, including MRIs. While she is young and in fairly good health, last year she experienced mysterious dizzy spells. Her doctor recommended a MRI.
My cousin called several in-network radiology labs for pricing. No one could or would give her an exact price. The cost would depend on a variety of factors: 1) Negotiated price they billed to the insurance company, which varied widely; 2) the individual’s co-insurance, co-pay and deductible; 3) medical code used; and 4) the biller’s mood that day. (#4 is kind of a joke).
When she went for a second opinion, her new doctor requested another MRI. I forget the reasoning for a 2nd scan but almost a year had passed since her first MRI.
At that point, my cousin had already paid $520 out of pocket for the first MRI and could not afford another costly scan. After some research, she found several for-profit MRI center with good online reviews that charged $200 – $250 for the same scan — basically a 50% saving!
My cousin reported that the facilities and personnel were very good. Her doctor had no issue with the MRI, which means that the quality was good.
It has dawned on me that ALL my recent big purchases are resulting in additional purchases. And it’s not a good feeling for an aspiring minimalist/ frugalista / zero-waster like me.
I bought a kiddie pool, which is overpriced due to high demand. Then I had to buy an air pump to inflate the pool. Now that I have the air pump, I am experiencing inflatable infatuation (a common disease among suburban parents). I can keep my kids occupied all summer… There are inflatable slides, bouncy houses, punching bags, pool toys, water sprinkler splash pads, and giant roller wheels waiting for their forever home!
I blame Covid 19 for the inflatable pool. My spouse and I have always been content with swim lessons at the local YMCA. Now we have an obnoxious giant kiddie pool in the middle of our lawn.
Unfortunately, the pool was only the beginning. I’ve since purchased new bikes for the kids. Then I found out that air pumps for bikes are different than those for large inflatable pools. Oh and I need to buy new helmets…
We also bought new patio chairs, which required new cushions. To protect our pretty chairs and cushions, I bought teak oil, chair covers and a patio umbrella.
I’m totally blaming Covid-19 for my indiscriminate shopping spree. The kids are destructive when bored. My husband and I have more time to stare at our neglected backyard. I just hope our spending returns back to normal once schools and camps and YMCAs are allowed to open again, whenever that might be.
Has COVID 19 changed your spending habits for the worse?
A few weeks ago I estimated it would cost $1,000 for backyard landscaping, including grading, gravel, trees and simple construction. We ended up spending $900 for grading alone.
I also discovered that three fairly mature trees could easily cost another $1000+. And it doesn’t seem like an opportune time to do home improvements. Despite news about declining home sales and upcoming recession, a nearby nursery told us that they were swamped with customer inquiries.
This is not the first time that I’ve been hundreds off at estimating home improvement costs. I do actually research project costs for my area, but I seem to only recall the lowest price and not factor in variables that would increase the cost.
On the plus side financially, we agreed to get a simple patio umbrella instead of expensive $3,000 retractable awnings. It seems like a no-brainer now that we’ve made the decision (or rather, listened to a reader’s advice!) Did you know that fancy, cantilever patio umbrellas can cost $500+?
As for other projects on our list (sidings, porch, frontyard, fencing, electrical etc), we plan to stretch out the timeline and do more by ourselves or with a good handyman instead of a company if possible.
COVID 19 has really hit home two things 1) Although we love doing home improvements, we’d love to be done with our mortgage even more; and 2) While early retirement is not in the cards, I want enough financial freedom/security to quit and find a better job! You can look forward to an upcoming rant about myboss.
I started this post back in 2016! Obviously it was never published. I updated it and added the “missing” years until 2020.
2016…Whatayear. I was laid off. Our rent increased. I cancelled hospital insurance thereby allocating that money toward increased rent. The same old middle-class story. Costs kept going up. Salary did not. I was glad that I had improved my skillset during the last several years. This helped me land a job rather quickly. However I began to realize that my continuous self-improvement efforts was just enough to stay at the same career level; it wasn’t enough to guarantee that my salary kept up with inflation.
2017 Rent increased again. Got loan pre-approval and started serious house hunting.
2018 Bought a house. Began endless cycle of home improvements. Adapted to new school and neighborhood. Spouse’s income improved just in time to help us pay property taxes!
2019 Changed companies, same field. Better benefits but not much higher pay. Spouse’s income increased. Completed a few bigger home improvements.
March 2020 Found this blog. It was interesting to read old posts from 3 – 4 years ago. Decided to start writing and commenting on blogs again.
Like most people during this pandemic, I’ve started using online grocery shopping with delivery and/ or pickup. Although these services have been around for ages, I never felt the need for it pre-pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, I like to browse, adding items as I see them on shelves. I also like to use coupons and stock up on sale items even if it isn’t on my shopping list.
Of course all of the above are secondary to safety. Getting groceries delivered or picking it up means you don’t step into a crowded market full of possible coronavirus carriers.
Below are my definitive rankings based on my own experiences and that of friends and family. My list doesn’t take consider a company’s treatment of its front-line employees as I’m assuming they are all equally bad. I will likely update as the quarantine drags on.
Current Rankings From best to worst
#1 Walmart #2 Sprouts (instacart) #3 Amazon Fresh #4 Whole Foods #5 Smart and Final #6 Vons
#1 – Walmart: I never thought I would recommend Walmart but we had a great experience with their grocery pick up service. Here is my referral link that gets you $10 off (minimum $50 purchase, must be new to this Walmart service) and gives me $10 for referring. Note: Friends have gotten $10 off using my link; however I have yet to see my reward..😞
Walmart’s website was easy to use, although they seemed to have fewer choices online than in-store. I also recommend downloading their app to make edits on the go (well, on the go between different rooms in the house).
We ended up with $100+ worth of food in the shopping cart. However it took me several days to find an open day/time for delivery or pick up.
Hint: It is worthwhile to check more than one Walmart location near you for availability; in-stock items vary by store.
On the day of pick-up, I received an email confirming the final item and any substitutions. They substituted five things and we were getting a carton of dozen eggs and organic milk.
When I arrived at Walmart, the pick up area was empty. I parked in a numbered space and called a phone number posted on a sign up in front. Two Walmart employees quickly arrived and loaded everything in my car’s trunk. No need to step out of the car!
Safety protocols may vary by store. At my pick-up location, employees wore gloves and kept their “social distance”. However I was told that this is not the case at every store.
#2 Sprouts: I had one good experience, followed by a so-so one. On the good side, I liked chatting in real time with the shopper through the Instacart app.
Unfortunately on my second order, they forgot one item (and billed me), substituted one item with something cheaper yet charged the higher price, and delivered damaged produce. If they refund my money, I may give them another chance. UPDATE: Even though I asked for a credit card refund, they credited my Instacart account. They did issue a refund of $20 due to missing items.
Remember, all grocery and delivery workers are overwhelmed so I think we should understand that mistakes get made.
#3 Amazon Fresh: They offer free delivery for Prime members. It took a long time to find an open slot for delivery.
#4 Whole Foods: They are just too expensive for my budget, even if I stick to their in-house brand.
#5 Smart and Final: Their website online ordering system did not work well on my phone. I probably won’t use them again just because of this.
#6 Vons: The earliest opened delivery date was two weeks out. However, we had a full fridge and didn’t need the items right away. On the day of delivery, we were informed that they only had three items (out of 30+) from our order!
Our order now totaled $21, out of which $9 was their service and delivery fee. We were aware and willing to pay these fees when our total order was over $100. But now that half of our bill were fees, it seemed ridiculously expensive.
It was too late to cancel the order online so we decided to call Vons headquarters. After a 40 minute wait, we talked to an understanding customer rep who cancelled our order for us.
Since we had waited two weeks for our order, we expected Vons to have most of the items, especially if we allowed substitutions for our first choice items. A huge disappointment!
If you have had any experiences with grocery delivery or pick up, please share!