Living alone, I feel I have both an advantage and a disadvantage when it comes to COVID-19. The advantage is that there is no one in close quarters on a regular basis who could possibly infect me, and I can control my home environment much better since it's just me; the disadvantage is that I am going without the social interaction and just plain comfort of having others around me.
I am actually pretty okay with hunkering down; my biggest dread is doing the weekly grocery shopping. I could go longer between trips, but I'm also shopping for my 86-year-old father, and I'm not sure he would like me to skip a week.
Yesterday was the day; I decided to try BJs because they are generally very uncrowded on weekdays without the COVID. I went during the early morning hour reserved for those of a certain age. It was uncrowded. I used the self-checkout station, but an employee suddenly ran up to me (3 feet away) and yelled that I could not use "unapproved" sanitizers on their equipment. (I've been bringing my little bottle of bleach/water and a sponge to spray any surfaces I have to touch.) And they still had a guy at the door checking receipts, making you wait in line with others. I don't think I'll be returning there again til this crisis is over.
I was very disappointed not to qualify for a new study an area hospital is recruiting for to see how a vegan diet, with or without eggs, affects diet quality and heart health. The study sounded great: eat a vegan diet (I already do), plus certain people would be assigned to eat 2 eggs daily for 4 weeks. There'd be about 4 blood draws and other check-ins. The pay was $600 PLUS another $500 in gift cards to pay for the vegan food! Unfortunately, I don't qualify because my BMI is in the "healthy" category and I'm not considered at risk for diabetes.
My routine when venturing out for groceries is elaborate, but as some healthcare pros have said, if you feel like what you're doing is overkill, then you're probably doing the right thing. I also read a good article in the New York Times about how to grocery shop safely.
So I wear my disposable gloves (I have masks, but haven't yet used them) and bring my sponge and spray bottle of bleach/water. I find a cart and wipe down mainly the handle bar, but also the wire on the cage wherever I think I'll be touching it, so that would include the front, since I would be leaning over it to empty it at checkout.
I've been trying to pull items stacked behind the front ones, to reduce the chance some customer has touched them.
I also spray and wipe down the surfaces at checkout, including the display screen you touch at various times, and the credit card terminal. Only BJs hassled me.
When I get to my car, I spray my own gloved hands with the bleach solution again, and the door handle. When I get home, I spray and wipe down all food products, either in the packaging they came in (like my dad's chicken), or I remove the food from its outer packaging and put it away without it. I also, for instance, sprayed/cleaned individual bananas for dad.
My technique is imperfect, to be sure; spraying the typical shopping cart is definitely difficult, but what I do is spray my sponge and then wipe the cart. I prefer the little carts simply because there's less to wipe down, but I'm shopping for 2 households so that sometimes won't fit in a smaller cart.
When I finish unpacking and cleaning the food, I set aside the reusable shopping bags in a part of the house where I won't walk into them, and I add a sticky note with the day I used them. Just because I know that the virus isn't supposed to survive past a certain time. I've heard varying numbers up to 9 days, so I allow for 10 days.
I do the same thing with mail collected from my mailbox. My postal carrier could have the virus and not know it, so I remove the mail using a gloved hand, and put both the mail and the glove aside, again with a dated sticky note. I get most bills online, so I'm not too concerned with not paying some bill in time.
I've ordered some food and other things from both Amazon and WalMart and done the same thing when those boxes arrived. Suffice it to say I have little piles of mail, boxes, gloves and coats scattered all around my living room (which I don't really use much).
So yeah, it sounds extreme, but I live near the nation's epicenter for the virus, New York City. In my state of Connecticut, I also live in the county that has the highest number of cases (and is closest to NYC, with lots of people who commute there for work).
Other than the challenges of food shopping, I've developed little routines that help me organize my time. I still have a job (at home), but this week I worked only 7.5 hours. Hardly enough to get by on, but I have savings and the government check to look forward to.
I walk nearly every day, sometimes just around the block, sometimes elsewhere. It's great to get outside and not feel cooped up. Once the weather gets a little warmer, I'll have plenty to do with gardening. I'm already considering whether I should try mowing my lawn for the entire season instead of paying my guy to do it. I certainly will have the time for it; it's also great resistance exercise and good for bone health, something I'm definitely thinking more about since being told I have osteopenia. It would also save me a pile of money since he charges $45 per mowing.
It's not easy to do. It's about an acre, and the worst part is a fairly steep slope near my front door. The hardest part is doing this in July/August, or during times of high humidity.
I do plan to grow more veggies this year at home, which could definitely become important if the virus persists.
I'm continuing to cook from scratch for nearly all my meals. I'm doing strength training exercises with hand and ankle weights, my yoga mat and a stretch band 3x a week.
I see my dad every week. This week was the second time I did not go near him. He was sitting outside in the sun when I arrived with the groceries. I thought he should put the groceries away himself, but he asked me to do it. I had bleach-wiped them, so they should be okay.
So we talked for about 20 minutes, but from a 6-foot distance. I worry about keeping his spirits up because he is already housebound and didn't go anywhere unless me or my sister or brother were taking him. Now all those visits will be curtailed.
He's talking about growing vegetable seedlings, so I've ordered soil, seeds and peat pots. It would be something to keep him busy.
What coping strategies have you come up with?
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Living alone, I feel I have both an advantage and a disadvantage when it comes to COVID-19. The advantage is that there is no one in close quarters on a regular basis who could possibly infect me, and I can control my home environment much better since it's just me; the disadvantage is that I am going without the social interaction and just plain comfort of having others around me.
My neighbor who lives behind me thinks he has corona virus. He's been really sick for the past week (sicker than when he had pneumonia 4 years ago, he said) and got tested this morning. He had to make a 40-minute drive to a special test center by himself to do that. He won't have results for a couple of days. He said he's had all the symptoms, most especially trouble breathing. He couldn't put his arm on his chest because of the pressure. they gave him Tamiflu.
I am very relieved that through uber caution, I turned down his suggestion that he come by for a cup of tea and a visit the week before last. By then I was already feeling uneasy about seeing anyone. Perhaps he wasn't contagious or even sick then, but I don't really know.
He said you cannot take care of yourself if you get sick. Because it was all he could do to walk to the bathroom. His wife is caring for him now and so far feels fine.
It will be a quiet day for me. (Heck, a quiet foreseeable future.)
On Thursday I ventured out to buy groceries for me and Dad. I got there during senior hours, but in truth it was probably more crowded that it might have been if I had gone during the middle of the day? I'm not sure when an uncrowded time to go would be since nearly everyone is home and presumably go food shopping at any time.
Stop & Shop was completely out of bananas and most meat. My father wanted chicken thighs, but the only chicken they had was chicken patties (which I got him) and chicken sausage. I got the last large clamshell of salad greens.
I brought dad's food over to his place but after putting the groceries away, I stayed there probably just 40 minutes when he said I should probably go. He wanted me to run to the bank and get him some cash, which did, but then I headed home.
Today so far I vacuumed and changed my bedsheets. I hope to take a walk at some point, before the expected showers. It's supposed to get up to 70 degrees.
I'll look for an interesting way to cook my spaghetti squash that's been sitting in the fridge.
I've been doing intermittent fasting for the past month or two, not every day, but 2 or 3 times a week. It basically involves no snacking after dinner, and not eating the following day til about 11 or 12 noon, so you're essentially fasting for 16 hours. Then you can eat during an 8-hour window. There are a lot of health benefits to doing so.
Does anyone remember the old Charlton Heston movie, The Ten Commandments, which the networks often would play leading up to Easter? There's a part of that movie (or was it in The Greatest Story Ever Told, also starring Charlton Heston) where King Herod's army is ordered to kill every Hebrew male infant under age 2. I'm remembering a scene where a deadly smoke/breeze wafts throughout the town under the doors of all the people except those who marked their door with a cross.
Somehow this corona virus reminds me of that scene; we're all just hunkered down, waiting for the pestilence to pass us by.
I brought dad's food over
Last night I emailed my manager at work, asking to work from home for an as-yet-undefined period of time because I truly feel showing up there is an unnecessary risk.
We are a small office, about 9 people, but I see no reason not to leverage modern technology to work remotely. My work as copy editor lends itself to it.
I got the go-ahead this morning; manager let it be known they were working with IT on a solution for others to work from home "in the event" they needed to.
Wow, if ever there was an event, this would be it. Not sure what they're waiting for. Our governor and everyone else is advising "social distancing," and this is what all our clients are already doing, yet for some reason my little employer seems to think this advice doesn't apply to them, even as we're told that someone can be a virus carrier and spread the disease for several days before showing symptoms.
I will be taking a substantial financial hit from working at home since I can only charge for time actually spent working on an assignment. When I'm on site, I charge for the entire time I'm there, regardless of what I'm doing, and there can be long downtime periods I just spend reading news online. So a typical 18-hour week could shrink by half or more. I actually tried to calculate whether I'd be better off if they issued me a temporary layoff. I think it would be a close call, and in any event, if work continues, I'll need to do it. Not really my call.
Now, my only true exposure will be my once weekly grocery shopping trips for my father and myself. I feel uneasy about continuing to see him as I could spread it to him, but I believe that my precautions would make that possibility very low. He is homebound now, and looks forward so much to my visits.
That being said, we won't be visiting a restaurant anytime soon. Being 60, I actually fall into the "high risk" category, along with my father. I guess I will make a meal for us at his place and we can still take a drive somewhere just for fun, but not stop in anywhere!
My county is the hot spot in our state due, no doubt, to our proximity to Westchester County, NY, another hot spot, and New York City.
I am sure the self-imposed isolation will get to me, but perhaps less than most, as I am very self-sufficient and have many things to occupy my time at home.
Unlike Dido, though, I doubt I have several months' worth of groceries, as I rely a lot on fresh produce that can't be stockpiled. I could make do with what I have for a few weeks, probably, but the lack of variety would probably get to me. I did stock up on cat food for Luther. I do hope no further shortages occur at the grocery stores. I noticed when I was at Stop & Shop last Saturday, besides the cleaning supplies, they were only half-stocked in cat food, bread and some fresh produce.
Yesterday I stayed home all day except for 2 outings: a nice, long walk to our historic Main Street, by myself, and a short drive in town to donate some clothing accessories to a woman with a church group collecting for a Sudanese refugee family settling in our area.
The day before, Saturday, I also stayed home all day but I kept busy and did some cooking and yard work. I plan to keep in touch with family, friends, loved ones by FaceTime, email, phone and text, and by yodeling to my neighbors up the hill.
Today I canceled a routine doctor's visit. A few days ago, I had a good conversation with staff at the gym I just joined; they sound very reasonable and I have every expectation they will let people extend their memberships by as many months as they avoid the gym. In the meantime, I'll be working out at home.
I had met with my mason to do a few jobs for me this spring, but given the uncertainty about how long this will last, I think I'd prefer to preserve the liquidity of my cash holdings.
Another huge downturn in the DJIA and they've frozen the market.
One small bonus coming out of all the economic and stock market uncertainty is the drop in oil prices. I was able to fill up my oil tank for $1.66 a gallon, a price I haven't paid since 2016.
The past week has been a whirlwind of bad news and unexpected developments, most of it COVID-19-related.
I got the results back from my DEXA bone scan, and it indicates osteopenia. This shocked me, because I've been active all my life, from walking 4 miles back and forth to school until I got my driver's permit, to mowing my one acre with a walk-behind mower for 20 years, and everything in between. I've walked on my lunch break at work for decades, and more.
So 2 days later, I joined our local gym, the "sports academy," which is quite a bit more expensive ($42/mth) than most other local gyms these days, but I like it because of the convenient location, the friendly staff and, perhaps because of the cost, most of the membership is definitely over 50, so I feel very comfortable. It's not your typical macho pickup joint. I saw any number of people who had to have been in their 70s working out!
I committed to doing strength training on the machines 3x a week, and this would have been my 2nd week doing so, but things have gotten so nuts with the virus that I began feeling uneasy about returning to the gym, even with my own little spray bottle of bleach/water solution. I was there on Wednesday and don't think I'm going back for a while.
I had a good conversation with a staff person there who was very understanding and said they were having a meeting about it. They may offer an extension of memberships so if you take 2 or 3 months off now, they'll extend the membership by that much. or something like that, so I'm not too worried about that.
I have several sets of hand weights up to 10 pounds and a very good set of exercises for bone health you can do at home. I'm not sure it's as complete a workout as what I could expect at the gym, but it may have to do (along with my habitual walking) for a few months.
I'm actually more concerned about my job. When I left the office Wednesday, I had been following the virus news closely, but had every intention of returning to work on Monday, per my schedule, because we are a very small office and I figured the chances of contagion were also small, but now it's Saturday, and I feel differently.
My job editing lends itself to work at home, yet this company has always been reluctant to let you do that. I take a financial hit anyway when I do work from home, say, during a snowstorm, because I can only charge for actual time worked, not time spent sitting around waiting for assignments to come in. That's different than how it works when I'm on-site, where I can charge for my entire time spent there, regardless of whether I'm actually working, or not. And there's a lot of downtime.
But beyond that, I'm thinking it's likely we'll all see temporary layoffs, because our clients (very large pharma companies) will ban the kind of training workshops we put together for them, and if they can't be all turned into webcasts instead of in-person meetings, we'll see a work shortage.
A former coworker who now works for our largest client confirmed that this is exactly what's happening at her firm. Travel and meetings have been banned for the next 3 weeks and everyone there is working from home.
My neighbor told me a week ago he spent $1000 on groceries. At the time, I thought it unnecessary, but now in hindsight I see that wasn't a bad idea.
I went to Stop & Shop early today and not only was the entire one side of the cleaning aisle completely empty, but the cat food and bread shelves were only about 50% full, and I noticed other shortages in fresh produce. I do hope that once supermarkets restock, things will settle down.
Luckily I had a gallon of bleach at home so I made my own spray for surfaces, and my coworker gave me some Purell at the office Wednesday which I took home with me.
I am definitely practicing "social distancing" but am keeping in touch with family and friends through phone, text, email and, as I jokingly said to my neighbor behind me, through yodeling up the hill.
I saw my dad on Thursday and had decided that though the risk is small, I didn't really want to take him to a restaurant for lunch if we could easily avoid that, so I made a "picnic" lunch of homemade veggie soup, some peanut butter cookies and hot tea in thermoses.
I expected some resistance from him as I know that, being homebound, he really looks forward to our outings, but since he watches the news all day, he was fully informed about what was going on and did not poo poo my concerns as I thought he would.
I told him we could still take a drive somewhere, but he said let's wait for a sunny day. I did have to do grocery shopping for him, but tried to be careful in wearing gloves and spraying down the cart handle bar. I told the bagger I would bag my own groceries. Maybe I'm overreacting (I didn't see anyone else wearing gloves at the store) but I'd rather be safe than sorry, and there are now a dozen people who tested positive in my state, and all but one of them are in my county.
I really hope that people take this virus seriously. The more quickly we can take extraordinary measures by closing schools, movie theaters, etc., the more quickly we can nip this thing in the bud, or "flatten the curve," as they've been saying in the press conferences. If we delay or take half-measures for the next few weeks, it could make this whole thing much worse for us. Just sayin'.
Oh yeah, and I've lost about $300K in the stock market, despite being extremely conservatively invested with just 50% stock exposure. Not touching it, of course, as I expect we'll make a full rebound once they wrest control of the virus or come up with a vaccine.
Today has been an atypical day, filled with a number of unexpected events.
Dell Technical Support
This morning I tried calling Dell technical support as I was having issues printing from my new computer. The first person was on with me for 45 minutes, after which she told me since I was having a software issue, not a hardware issue, she'd have to transfer me, and the next person told me since my warranty doesn't cover software, i'd have to pay $239 to upgrade my warranty!! if I wanted to have them help me fix just this specific problem, that would still cost me $129.
I declined either offer and told them I'd just go on social media and tell everyone what I thought of Dell technical support, after which they offered to "escalate" the issue and have someone else call me back at a later time, presumably at no cost to me.
So we'll see what happens with that. I was pretty irate, having spent over $900 on a Dell computer, to have them telling me this.
Scrapping old computers
After that, I got really tired tripping over the components of my old computer, which was sitting unassembled on the floor. I had hoped to make a few bucks selling it but had no takers, and I know there are hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing. Both my computer and my mother's computer, which had been taking up space in a spare closet for 4 years now, worked fine but are functionally obsolete.
Microsoft, as you may know, no longer supports Windows 7, which I am told leaves it vulnerable to hackers, so that pushed me to upgrade my computer, which was really not that old. I think I got it in 2013.
With some difficulty, I took the tower of both computers apart and removed the hard drive, then smashed both hard drives with a hammer to destroy them.
I had considered keeping my mother's old hard drive and transferring all the data, but I'm not really sure what the point was. There is nothing I have missed these past 4 years, and reading her documents or viewing her images would just be a painful and emotional process.
I brought all of it to my town's transfer station today before they closed.
My friend and neighbor invited me to walk with her and her dog, so I worked out my frustrations with her as we walked.
Neighbor's marriage woes
Later this afternoon, another neighbor unexpectedly stopped by and confided in me his marriage has gone south. I had always thought of theirs as a great marriage. I was really surprised. So we talked over tea for quite a while. He has contemplated an affair. She won't see a therapist (doesn't even want to talk about it) , and they can't afford to divorce.
Now, as dusk descends, I am back to my own devices, considering myself lucky that I am not dealing with a late-in-life marriage crisis.
I filed my tax returns a few weeks ago and got my federal refund of about $1100 in my checking recently.
The stock market tumble
I'm worried about the stock market as I lost quite a bit on paper, even though I had only 50% invested in equities. All the more reason to get an immediate annuity for about $150K in 5 years to ensure regular monthly income that will cover most of my ongoing expenses and remove that money from stock market exposure. So I wouldn't have to lose sleep over future stock market fluctuations. It's a little too early to have done this now, as I would get a lower monthly income because of my younger age. Actuarially, waiting 5 more years is a better strategy.
The rest of the weekend will be devoted to cleaning the house, cooking, chillin' and reading.
Busy, busy, busy.
I decided to replace my "aging" Windows 7 Dell desktop since Microsoft no longer supports it, virus/security-wise. It was also getting incredibly SLOW, probably due to today's complex graphics.
I bought a new "all-in-one" Dell desktop (Windows 10) with a slightly bigger monitor of about 23" and NO tower, which I like a lot since too many wires makes it hard to vacuum. Everything is wireless.
I had considered a laptop, but I really like a large monitor, which doubles as a TV for me when watching movies on Kanopy. All you need is a participating public library (and library card) and you can watch some great free movies there.
I also bought a gadget to transfer all my files from my old computer to the new one; I made the mistake of having them put into the "cloud," so now all my photos are just dumped into the cloud by date and are no longer neatly organized by file. There were also tons of duplicate photos; I don't know why, but that's likely the reason why the system is already telling me I'm nearly full at the cloud and I would have to start paying a monthly fee for more storage there. So I'm slowly deleting the dupe photos.
I spent a while on the phone with tech support, because, to start with, I couldn't get the keyboard to work. who knew there is a tiny on/off switch on one side? Then there was an issue with the face recognition feature not working. Uh, duh, that's because I didn't push the little pop-up camera in the up position so it could actually see me. This is what happens when they give you no instruction manual. Sigh.
I spent most of Friday manually copying over all my bookmarks and reorganizing them by file names. I still need to connect to my printer and a few other things. Transitioning to a new computer is always somewhat traumatic for me.
I started doing my taxes last week but had to stop as I was missing one form, which I now have, so I hope to continue (complete) my federal taxes today??? I did another small backdoor Roth IRA conversion since my income these days is pretty low. I am kind of procrastinating by writing this post.
I earned $200 in gift cards (it would be less if I opted for cash payment) from my latest Citi credit card, so I have gift cards for Macy's, Lowe's and Bed Bath & Beyond to use whenever I want. I don't really need anything right now, though I will surely find the gift cards useful at some point.
Moneywise, the computer was a big unexpected expense, but I'll just try to lay low on spending this month. If I spend on nothing but essentials, there's a chance I'll break even.
Lately I've been thinking about bone health. My mother had osteoporosis. I have walked for exercise, for years, but I've read this doesn't necessarily help. So I bought a weighted vest after hearing good things about how they can help you actually build bone. You can put up to 10 lbs in half-pound increments in the vest; starting to wear weight very gradually.
I started with 2 lbs which I guess was too much because it gave me a mild backache. I eased off that and am now walking (when I think of it) with just 1 lb, evenly dispersed between front and back. I wear it under my coat and it's a little bulky, but I wouldn't be caught dead with it worn on the outside.
However, now I'm wondering if I should give up on the vest entirely. I remembered that last year, when I saw my neurologist for my annual visit, we had done an MRI; the great news is that nothing hadchanged since my last MRI 10 years ago. But there was mention in the report of spinal stenosis, and it mentioned a marked decrease in the cushioning between certain vertebrae. I brought it up to my neurologist, who didn't really discuss it with me. I feel he was only interested in the MRI for the MS.
Not sure if it's part of normal aging? Is wretched back pain a part of my future? I don't know. I have come across some exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles along the spinal column to perhaps alleviate the condition, although I feel no pain but am wondering if that's what's going to come. I have noticed a distinct clicking sound in my neck when I turn my head from left to right. I have a physical scheduled for next week so will talk to her about it then.
The funny thing with the physical, which I originally had scheduled for this past Thursday. I showed up for my 10:15 am appointment and while the door was UNLOCKED (it's in a commercial office building) no one was there. The computer at the reception desk was off. I called out "hello?" and no one answered. The hallways were dark. Very strange.
I couldn't figure out why the door would be unlocked yet the place vacant. Living in a town where a mass shooting occurred, I started to wonder if the staff was being held hostage and maybe a gunman was in the office. I didn't stay there long. I left messages with the answering service, who knew nothing. Finally, a staff person showed up, very apologetic. They had a one-hour delayed opening due to weather (just a little rain), and they had tried to call me but umm, I haven't been there in 2 years and I got my new iPhone since then, so they couldn't reach me. Even though I had just talked to them 2 days prior due to the possibly bad weather, and if someone had thought about it, they should have been able to get my new number by looking at the past incoming phone calls.
Learning to love sardines
I am trying to learn to love sardines. They are supposed to be very good for you: low on the food chain so less heavy minerals than other fish, even salmon, and good for brain health. I'm still eating mostly plant-based, but do eat fish 1-2x a week. I was afraid I wouldn't like it. I bought several tins of sardines a few weeks ago and the one tin sat on my kitchen table for 2 weeks.
I worked my way up to trying out one of the recipes I got and opened the tin. Hmmm, these don't look like sardines. Turns out they weren't. They were smoked oysters. I didn't realize other things besides sardines would be packed in those little tins and sitting so close to the sardines, I made a mistake in picking them up. I ate them in my sandwich and they were ok.
Then, yesterday, I tried the sardines, using the same recipe of mayo, mustard, lemon juice, chopped red onion and celery with sprouts on whole grain toasted bread. (I used spelt.) I mashed the sardines up well in the dressing, and this helped to mask any strong odor. It was a little fishy, but I got it down. I was hoping to eat sardines once a week. Still not crazy about them but I want to give it another try. If anyone has a recipe that really masks the flavor/odor by combining it with other foods, I'd love to hear it.
There's a chance I may lose my job in another month or so, which is worrisome. The short story is this: a former (disgruntled) coworker who used to share my job with me saw an ad for my job, and it said they were looking for someone f/t. He texted me and said, what's going on?
I spoke to my manager about it the very next day, and he immediately told me they were looking to replace the woman who currently shares my job with me as she doesn't like to work late into the evening and was in fact leaving the office at 3:30 pm each day as she has kids. Another coworker who is not a trained editor was picking up the slack after she left, but I'm guessing that wouldn't be a permanent solution. (But why did the ad say "full-time?"
My manager did ask me if I was sure I wouldn't want to work f/t, and I confirmed that. He seemed very straightforward with me, and I thought I had nothing to worry about until a day or so later, when the recruiter who got me this job called me to again ask, what's going on? After I finished telling him there was nothing to worry about, that my former coworker was only "stirring the pot" due to sour grapes, the recruiter, a personal friend of mine, told me my manager had talked to him over a month ago saying he needed a f/t person. Recruiter promised to talk to my manager and let me know what he said, and even said he might "recuse" himself from looking for my replacement because he felt loyal to me. I told him don't worry about it, that it was his job.
When recruiter called me back, he said my manager was "torn." That he thought the current work arrangement was working out well, but at the same time he also thought it would be better to go back to a f/t position. But that he wouldn't be doing anything right away as he had a vacation planned coming up.
My manager doesn't know I'm friends with the recruiter, so I don't think he knows I know what he told recruiter.
So I don't know what to think. I'd hate to lose this job. It's not perfect, but it would be hard to duplicate elsewhere in terms of the money or the work. I just can't see myself returning to full-time, but I also see there are very few quality p/t jobs out there. I'd really have to rely on recruiters again.
I do know my employer has gone through several different people when they decided to let my former coworker go. He was furious because they never told him why, and he is still a little obssessed about finding out the truth, but he's asking all of us, his former coworkers, as if we would know.
I did apply for one job, which WAS f/t, but it was a one-of-a-kind job, working as copy editor for my local weekly newspaper. Having started out in journalism and having very fond memories of it, that would be almost a dream job, and I was willing to take a huge cut in salary just to work right here in town, fo the newspaper. But I never heard from them. I applied after seeing the posting for weeks, and then I stopped seeing their ad, so I suspect they found someone else. Sigh.
Fasting for health
On the health front. I have also begun doing 16:8 intermittent fasting, which means you fast for 16 hours and eat only during an 8-hour window. So, for instance, you eat your final meal/food at around 7 or 7:30 pm, sleep the night, and then don't eat again til close to noon.
There are a host of health benefits, although most people do it for weight loss. You're essentially eating 2 meals a day, and nothing in the evening. I have found it relatively easy to do, but have only been doing it a few times a week.
It's that time of year when Patient Saver likes to analyze her total spending for the year, which of course couldn't be possible without her careful expense tracking all year long!
The big picture: My total spending for the year was $39,530. Of my 30 or so expense categories, expenses increased from last year in 12 categories, including my top 3 biggest expenses, unfortunately. Expenses stayed about even with last year in another 6 categories, and expenses actually decreased in 9 categories.
Here are my ranked expenses, from greatest to least, along with a little commentary thrown in.
Property taxes: $6,738. My #1 biggest expense, representing 17% of my total expenses. Not much I can do about this until I turn age 65, when I can take advantage of a pretty generous town senior tax credit and a less generous state tax credit for seniors with more stringent criteria I may or may not meet.
Food: A whopping $4,982, or 22% MORE than I spent last year. Much of this increase is due to my decision to buy a half-share at the organic farm, which cost me $585 for the season. I won't do that again, but will continue to shop there more selectively.
This category vexes me more than any other; try as I have in the past, I have yet to contain my costs, and in some ways, I don't try to since I believe that eating healthy, organic produce is conducive to good health. For much of the year, I would hit Aldi's first for the basics and then supplement as needed by going elsewhere for things Aldi's didn't have. This obviously didn't have much impact.
Health insurance: I'm on the healthcare exchange and premiums cost me $4,330 this year. I feel grateful to have seen just a 5% increase from last year. (I treat out of pocket copays and other medical bills separately below.)
Greenhouse window, $3,000: I budget for up to $10,000 in home improvement expenses each year, or vacations. In other words, I have $10K I can spend on either category, or both, up to a max of $10k. I didn't vacation this year so I spent about $8,250 on various home improvements.
I wanted the greenhouse window to brighten up a dark corner at the end of a short hallway, a place where I could bathe some of my cacti and succulents in more winter sunlight. They seem to like it, although I have noticed the temperature in that corner is now 5 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. The window juts out from the side of the house and while there is insulation underneath and around it, I guess it's not enough. I may consider calling the builder back in spring to see if he can beef it up somehow.
Another home improvement, beefing up and essentially redoing my attic insulation, was my #5 expense this year, at $2,674. I'm glad I did it. I think it's more airtight up there. It's hard to say for sure since how much I spend on heating oil has more to do with oil prices than insulation.
I know that the blown-in cellulose seals things up better than fiberglass batts, which is what I had, plus they used a lot of sealers and added insulating foam sheets on all the knee-wall doors and the main door.
Next on my list was the cost of taking down a massive locust tree and a somewhat smaller, but dead, ash tree, another victim of ash borer. The takedown of these 2 trees cost $2,576.
My #7 expense comes under the general "Household" expenses, my only real catch-all for certain expenses I can't put elsewhere. This came to $1,668.
My #8 expense was my cat, at $1,442, and this was up 71% from last year, due to some dental work he needed.
My #9 expense was "Lawn & garden," at $1,261, which was actually 18% lower than last year because I tried to do a few mowings myself early in the spring and toward the end of the season, to save money. As it is, I only have the mower guy come every other week.
I mostly dislike mowing in the heat and humidity of July and August. It sure is nice to have someone else do it, but it really is a big expense, so I will try again to do some mowings myself (while I still can).
My #10 expense was car upkeep ($981), up 68% from last year due to the need for front brakes (the 1st time needed for my 2013 Honda) and some other stuff. This is another of those categories it would be hard to lower unless I wanted to unwisely ignore needed maintenance. I go to the dealer, but the private places around here are just as expensive, honestly.
Electricity: $960,up 5% from last year.
Gasoline for car: $881, down 14% from last year, not because I'm driving any less but due to lower gas prices.
Heating oil/furnace cleaning: $809, down 35% from last year for the same reason as gas for my car was down: Texan crude prices were just down generally.
Maintenance: $764, down 41% from last year. This includes general repairs, the servicing of my furnace humidifier, AC and stuff like that.
Homeowners insurance: $699, which was about the same last year.
State of CT: I owed them $658 last year and i guess I'm under-withholding on my pay. I need to adjust this on a W-4.
Car insurance: $655, which was up 10% from last year. I take advantage of every conceivable discount available and still it goes up each year, which is hugely irritating to me as I've never filed any kind of claim for home or auto in 25 years.
Internet/phone: $633, down 30% from last year, mainly because my dear cousin gifted me an iPhone and included the monthly service as part of the gift. I still maintain a landline, but the cost ($45) is nominal as it's Magic Jack. I hate AT&T, which hiked the cost of my Internet service after I dropped landline service with them, so now I pay them $10 more a month for the Internet. If I could switch Internet service for a lower price, I would.
Out of pocket medical/dental: $589, down 66% from last year, mainly because I had a less-than-ideal plan and made a concerted effort to avoid going to the doctor, although I did see my neurologist and ophthalmologist along with my dentist, who is kind of pricey since I have no dental insurance.
Entertainment: $527, which is about what I spent last year. In this category I include things like my Hulu subscription, my Ancestry subscription in the past, the occasional movie out and so on.
Coworker's car scratch: $500. I hugely regret scratching my coworker's car, especially since this guy is an absolute car nut and treats his Audi better than anything else in his world. I scratched the black paint on it backing out of a dark parking lot when he was unexpectedly parked behind me. I knew I couldn't file a claim with my car insurance because I long ago hiked my deductible to $5k to save money on the premiums. So I had to pay it out of pocket.
The rest of my categories are, in descending order, gifts, dining out, clothing, car taxes/registration/license fees, my umbrella policy, water, borough taxes, sewage, dump sticker and haircuts.
So total expenses came to $39,530. My total NET income came to $35,158, so I had a smallish shortfall of $4,300. Put another way, I was able to pay 89% of my expenses in 2019 with my little part-time job.
My income came primarily from my part-time copy editing job, but for the 2nd year in a row, dad gave each of his 4 children a very nice $5,000 Christmas check. I made another $850 in Facebook sales selling stuff I don't need, I earned another $600 from some random freelance work, $426 from credit card rewards, and that's about it.
What's missing from this list is housing expenses. As you may know, I paid off my mortgage early, in 2012.
Until next year!
I hope everyone had a nice holiday. I did, but truth be told, I always look forward to the start of a new year and new beginnings.
I was invited to join my friend's Christmas dinner with her family, which I did. There were about 10 adults. I enjoyed it, but after coffee and dessert and just before they were going to start opening presents, I chose to leave; the gift giving is such a family-oriented thing and I didn't want to get in the way of that.
Today we walked friend's dog off-leash in the wood and meadow, which he always relishes. He is a timid dog, but comes alive when he's off the leash, running.
Tomorrow, my cousin will arrive from PA and will stay through Sunday mid-day.
I had a couple of really nice conversations with another cousin in NJ. I saw her for Thanksgiving. It's nice to build ties with family over time.
These are my friend's Christmas cookies:
For an entire year, I've been using and enjoying the set of ceramic knives my cousin got me for Christmas last year. They're sharp as heck and I use them nearly every day. Each time I do, I hear my mother's voice inside my head: "I don't like the way you're holding that knife."
Well, the other morning I was deveining large kale leaves to make a salad. I was nearly done when I cut the middle finger of my right hand rather deeply.
Because I take fish oil pills (which thin the blood), it just wouldn't stop bleeding. Until finally, it did.
So I won't be shaking any hands tonight at our office Christmas dinner. Our boss takes us out to a very nice restaurant in SoNo. Since the dinner is on my day off, I decided to just drive down to the office and join the others on a shuttle van that will take them to and from the restaurant, which is probably about 20 minutes from the office. It will save me the trouble of navigating my way there in a sort of unfamiliar city in the dark, plus dealing with the parking.
By this month's end, I will have attended 5 different holiday parties! One of them my own. First was a Fillipino party my friend invited me to with her husband. She is Chinese but grew up in the Phillipines.
Last weekend I went to my neighbors' party, which was lots of fun. This is the neighbor-husband whose children's book I edited a year ago. Things are taking off and there is talk about creating a deck of cards for each character in his book (I would write the copy for the cards), along with toys. (My neighbor is a former toy designer so he knows the business.) He has an agent who was just in China, and an investor who is ready to roll. My neighbor wants me to work for him a few days a week and he told me to name my price and don't sell myself short.
I need to learn more. I'd consider quitting my current job and working for my neighbor, but I need to find out out long-term a thing this could be; if it only lasts a year, or doesn't pan out, then I would be out of work sooner than I'd like to be. I might consider doing it while keeping my current job, but I value my free time and don't really want to work 5 days a week.
I just finished writing the promo copy that will appear on Kindle/Amazon page for the book. Will be meeting him this morning so will talk more.
I'll be spending Christmas with another friend/neighbor. I've been tasked with bringing crudites and dip. Her sister is bringing someone from work along, so I feel better knowing I am not the only "stray" they've picked up.
Then, 2 days after Xmas, I'm hosting my cousin who will be up for the weekend from PA. I've been meal-planning for his visit but it's hard to do since my dad, who will join us, doesn't drive, and my cousin, who is older, doesn't like to drive once he's up here. It's hard to plan a meal if you have to run out to pick people up, so I may ask cousin to do it just once so I can focus on the meal.
My holiday gift shopping is mostly done.
Work has been very light for the last month or so. This is good and bad. Bad, obviously, because it's less income, but good in that it may open up an opportunity to do another Roth IRA conversion without raising my income that much.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
I'm looking forward to my favorite meal of the year.
In money news, I was accepted for a new bonus credit card, the Citi Rewards + card, which will earn me a $200 bonus after I spend $1,500 in the 1st 3 months.
I remembered that I had to temporarily lift the freezes I have at the 3 credit bureaus or I'd be automatically rejected by the card issuer.
It's been a while since I've been accepted for a new credit card. Even though my credit score is sterling, I have no mortgage debt, so I think some issuers have trouble judging my creditworthiness with no installment payments to track, and just the revolving debt of my existing credit cards.
I took advantage of my primary bank's promo where, if you use their debit card 10 times in a 1-month period, you earn a $25 Amazon gift card. Easy peasy.
I also earned another $10 by paying a BOA credit card bill using my phone. I don't plan to be paying bills using my smartphone or my debit card on a regular basis.
As is his wont, my boss gave me a $100 bottle of wine this week. I will save it for when my cousin comes up for a visit between Christmas and New Year's.