Hello Oprah – An Elder Advocate's Appeal
This Week in Elder News - 9 May 2009

Crime Followup and Recession Frugality

category_bug_journal2.gif First, a large shout-out and thank you to so many of you who offered sympathy, concern and suggestions regarding the condominium embezzlement problem I wrote about on Monday. What a terrific community of caring people we have here.

For those concerned that there is laxity in the management of the condo, be assured that it is incorporated under the laws of the State of Maine to which the bylaws conform, containing the standard remedies for misuse and other transgressions. However, no amount of legal language can prevent someone bent on ignoring or defying the rules, and enforcement is not as easy as bylaws make it sound.

Now, all that may be moot. Daddy bailed out his 27-year-old son, delivering a certified check for restitution of the embezzled money before the deadline on Wednesday afternoon.

On the same day, Mom and Dad spent several hours loading their SUV with bags and boxes of stuff from the son's apartment. So although they have not informed the condo, apparently the son doesn't live here anymore. He hasn't been around since the day the father (co-owner with his son) was informed of the embezzlement.

The father has said he is putting the apartment on the market so ironically, the embezzlement may turn out to be the best thing to happen, having triggered the removal of the kid who has made life here miserably annoying and unpredictable for three years.


Recession Frugality
We have discussed the need for and methods of saving money several times here in the past year. Last fall, as the heating season was beginning, I made a few small changes in an effort to reduce the cost of staying warm through winter which is my largest expenditure after property taxes:

  1. I upgraded the weatherstripping on the exterior doors.

  2. I did not turn on the radiator in the guest room except when friends stayed for a few days, and kept the door closed so not to suck heat from the rest of the apartment. And I did not turn on the second radiator in the dining/parlor area, reducing the number of radiators in use from six to four.

  3. I kept the thermostat at 67 degrees during the day and 60 at night.

  4. The laundry/storage room is on a different heating system – a seven-foot-long, electric baseboard heater which is way too much for the size of the room. So I bought a small, electric space heater for about $40, set it at 55 degrees and was diligent about turning it off when we had above-freezing days.

  5. I have been equally diligent about unplugging appliances when not in use.

None of this took much effort. It's easy to fold it all into the daily routine and I was never cold, although I make wearing layers – usually a teeshirt under a sweater – a habit. Shearling slippers keep my toes cozy.

Each year, I sign an 11-month contract with the heating oil provider so that I pay an equal amount each month, established at the beginning of the contract. When I received my final heating season bill a couple of weeks ago, I calculated and compared the amount of fuel used in this 2008/09 period to that of the 07/08 period. And this year I saved – {drum roll} – 25 percent.

I was so pleased with myself that I pulled out the records and compared my electric bills for the same periods of time. {another drum roll please} I saved 16 percent on that!

Is anyone else out there busting their buttons with pride over their success at frugality?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz has a new family tale: Oh! You're John's Girl.


Hi Ronni, Although not a daily visitor, I come to your website regularly. I was dismayed to hear about the neighbor who ripped off your account. I can imagine the sense of outrage. So today I am very happy to read that this stupid thing he did is actually working out for the best. You have your money back and he's moved out. Good riddance. Now just be careful about who you let take the place of this man. I guess you all have some procedure to accept the buyers. Check the references too.
A month ago I reached the age of 65 and stopped my regular job teaching elementary school 3 days a week. However, I still teach an English class to kids from a nearby Montessorischool. I am also developing my business as a speech and pronunciation coach. The slogan that came to mind while riding home on my bicycle two months ago was "Embrace Your Age" and I've started a ning.com site on it. Tomorrow I start also 'Embrace Your Age' yoga on the beach. And although it is not always easy to Embrace my Age, I strive to be present in the moment and appreciate where I am in stage of my life.

Be well, embrace the frugal life ;-) Love, Yolima

So pleased for you, Ronnie, that this outrageous embezzlement behaviour has resulted in a good outcome.

Long may that continue.

I read, with great relief, of the loss of your downstairs neighbor...say amen, and pour the wine.

I also rejoice at his move and your capturing the money. Life goes on...good things happen if you believe.

I too last year started doing things to improve my utility bills (I am happy I did it then since I am unemployed now). I to unplug all appliances not in use; I redid all my front windows to energy savers; got a new roof with energy saving insulation. I keep my temperature at 65 all winter and 75 all summer. I never move it because I was told the more you adjust your thermastat, the more the furnace, heat pump has to work to adjust the temperature.
My budget bill with our utility provider is now one half of what it was. Oh, I also replaced all my bulbs with those funky looking energy light bulbs.

It works!!

Terrific! He's gone.
Maybe, just maybe, living there in Maine will feel a lot better.

Woo-hoo! on both counts!

Excellent news! Although you never can tell about bad pennies, it appears this particular bad penny will not turn up again.

We are not as agressive as you are Ronni, with our utility bills. But we've used a set back thermostat for years.

Where we have been agressive is with our sole credit card, which we use for certain sorts of purchases and for travel, paying off the balance monthly.

We switched for the second time since retirement, ditching a card that gave us points when we requested them, to a card that automatically gives us 2% rebate for every dollar spent. It deposits this amount automatically into a money market account. This on money we would be spending anyway--basically for food and travel.

Ahhh, but aren't you going to miss the perfect maze challenges of navigating a dog-a-fied basement?

And, how about those funky visitors coming and going at all hours - no more fun people watching, huh?

Won't you moan the demise of that old childhood game of "That's Mine" concerning the choice driveway parking?

Oh, but, Miss Otis surely has no regrets today!

What good news! Hopefully this means no more getting blocked into (or blocked out of) your parking space too. Will be a good summer in Maine, I feel!

Excellent turn of events in your living situation. Kudos on your environmental, along with money-saving, changes. Nancy B is right: funky bulb shapes as not so odd when one considers the alternative.

Ronni, How wonderful! I'm so glad the miscreant is gone. I can only imagine the amount of stress you've been living under all this time. I bet there's a respectful, honest person out there to be a new owner.

As for frugality,our old furnace died so instead of repairing it again, we replaced it with a 96.6% AFUE furnace and a programmable thermostat. It came with a manufacturer rebate, a rebate from the gas company, and a tax break. That helped our dented our budget and it has saved us a lot of money. The price of natural gas has risen but our consumption has fallen. My numbers say it will pay for itself in less than 30 months.

Well, your good news made my day. So glad to hear it! Let's hope the person who buys the condo will be more respectful and easier to have as a neighbor.

Great news Ronni!

Well done, Ronni!

I bet under law, you two have the right to screen the next buyer and can turn thumbs down--actually stop the sale--if you don't think they'd be a good fit. Condos do this all the time.

Thought about a new career as a condo law paralegal?

I am so happy for you, Ronni. Sometimes there is a happy ending. I hope the father of the jerk is making him suffer some sort of retribution.

I, also, came out okay on my theft because the money my insurance paid me has allowed me to buy more important things than the jewelery they stole. However, it still galls me that neither the thieves nor the company they worked for didn't suffer any consequences. I really, really hate it when there is no accountability.

Regarding screening the next buyer that a couple of commenters mentioned:

Condominiums function legally like single family homes. We each own the space we live in, pay individual property taxes on our units and within boundaries to protect the integrity of the structure as a whole, have all the rights of single family home owners to alter our apartments in any way we choose.

And we have the right to sell to whomever we wish without consultation with or approval by the condominium board.

Co-op apartment operate differently. Owners do not own their individual spaces, they own stock in the corporation and are subject to a board which approves - or not - all changes to apartments, controls sublets and sales.

Co-ops are often a nightmare with the board requiring years of financial statements from prospective buyers, personal interviews that can and have been deeply embarrassing and they can reject otherwise qualified buyers on whim.

There is a reason I have always bought condominium apartments.

Good one, Ronni!!! Did you do a HELL YES dance to one o your favorite songs (that you put on your blog?)

I'm sending you this one:

Jerry Lee Lewis- Whole Lotta Shaking Going On.

Did you have a drink to celebrate? Did you and Ollie race around your condo, knowing you can now cause all the pandemonium you want, anytime? Are you buying a drum set?

Will Ollie get tap shoes?

Congratulations to you.

High five.

To save $, I get my hair nicely cut for $20 a shot, plus $3 tip by a great senior Italian woman who loves to garden. We share tips.

I buy most of my clothes second hand, even tho I can afford new. I do that so I can save for house renos and trips. Any new clothes I buy are warehouse or outlet mall sales.

Sandra Phillips has an excellent web site "Smart Shopping in Montreal," listing all warehouse sales, deals, such as bras for $5 each!

I check her site daily. Example: last week I bought a beautiful king size cotton bedspread for $20, worth $100.

It was a factory sale...tons of women of all sizes squeezing along tight corridors of boxes my height..imagine the scene. But I persevered and came out victorious.


Sandra is an expat American. She also writes a book every year with sections on everything you can imagine getting done, for good prices.

No debts. I save very well on my income and am always ready for an emergency.

We keep our house looking good, and I make extra pocket $ gardening for seniors.

We turn down the heat at night & in winter use our 2 fireplaces to help heat the house, using wood from our own trees that we trimmed.

I landscaped the front/back of the house with rocks picked up from everywhere. Cost nothing.

People give me plants all the time, even tho I never ask. Nobody likes to throw them away.

I just bought a huge batch of finger thick cotton yarn at a flea market (cheap) and crocheted mom a big round carpet for Mother's Day.

It took me a week to do it while watching tv. The thing got so heavy on my lap I was sweating.

I pick up all kinds of objects and turn them into something useful, like plant pots.

Mom and I check flea markets and have a standing date for breakfast every week, where we share tips, solve world problems and laugh like crazy.

I so appreciate my mom.

Ronni, take a bow.

Gee I wonder how the 27 year old feels about being bailed out by his parents - nah, who cares? Hopefully your new neighbour is a lot better.

Ronni, you are a wonderful example of what we should all be doing. One can hope that your new neighbor is a better neighbor.
Doctafill, you seem to be making excellent progress in economizing. I'm wondering about the wood burning. While it is not always true, some who burn wood save themselves money but cost the rest of us in environmental damage. Hopefully, your system includes a scrubber and is adjusted to produce minimal CO.

Hey Ronni! This embezzlement business turned out to be a blessing in disguise! Isn't it wonderful that at long last you are getting rid of that awful person! I'm raising a virtual glass of good champagne to a new era in your condo! As for the savings, you're the best!

Wow, what great news on the embezzler. Way to go.

And congrats on your frugal success as well.

Your good news cheered me up today.


The best possible outcome on condo situation, so glad for you. And congratulations on the 25% and 16% energy savings, well done.

Ronni, I'm so happy that your condo problem has sorted itself out. Guess it had to hit bottom before it could improve. Wonder what that father thinks of his son, whom he may have spoiled and thought could do no wrong? Your new neighbor surely has to be a great improvement.

I replaced all our light bulbs with those funny-looking fluorescent ones. Noticed that this winter's electric bills were down some from last winter's, although the weather wasn't any warmer.

Also cut my hubby's hair at home, which saves enough to buy lunch. We normally are quite frugal, except for the occasional lunch out.

Get Ollie some catnip so he can celebrate with you!


"There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you

Come on now

Let's all celebrate and have a good time
We gonna celebrate and have a good time

It's time to come together
It's up to you, what's your pleasure

Everyone around the world
Come on!

Yahoo! It's a celebration

Celebrate good times, come on!
It's a celebration
Celebrate good times, come on!
Let's celebrate

We're gonna have a good time tonight
Let's celebrate, it's all right
We're gonna have a good time tonight
Let's celebrate, it's all right


We're gonna have a good time tonight (Ce-le-bra-tion)
Let's celebrate, it's all right
We're gonna have a good time tonight (Ce-le-bra-tion)
Let's celebrate, it's all right"

Very joyful news about your jerky former neighbor! Hitting Dad in the wallet and, as co-owner, with possible embezzlement charges, was just what was needed.

Re frugality: No back-patting here, but a couple of thoughts to share. I'm an advocate of living with less clutter, so this is a great time to sell unwanted stuff to raise a little extra cash.

But I also advocate simply giving away things that you no longer need, rather than have them filling up space in your home. In difficult times, it's extra uplifting to remember to share whenever you can.

Small mercy, not having to put up with the neighbor upstairs again. Is there any chance that you and your downstairs neighbour can actively go out searching for some new buyer who would fit in well into your co-op?

Our fireplace inserts are less than 5 years old, and are the right ones, according to the installer. Montreal is slowly banning new house non EPA fireplaces. Some fireplaces also use natural gas. We certainly don't want to ruin the environment.

Yeah, Ronni!

Congrats, Doctafill!

Fix it up/Use it up/Give it away!

Ronni...I am sure glad that is through for you!! Amen!!!!

congrats, ronnie on both accounts.
life has a funny way of working it self out,w/some input of course!

A day late since I was in bed all yesterday with some bug. Hip, Hip Hurray!!! I'm SO glad that jerk moved out. Just in time for open windows and relaxing afternoons on your deck.

With electric rates sky high here in DC, last summer I just made a few small adjustments. Changed out all my light bulbs to the new ones. (I, for one, don't notice a difference._) I also turned off my ceiling fans during the day. I always thought they kept the house cooler but just read it is just when you are there to feel it!! Just those two things keep my bills lower than the previous year, even with the rate hikes.

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