Two years ago, when our great recession was getting underway, there was an excellent discussion here about Surviving Hard Times. Many elderbloggers and readers left their tips and tricks and memories from the Depression about cutting expenses for all of us to choose from.
We didn't even know yet that in just four months we would be hit with the Wall Street crash that decimated elders' life savings (others too, but I'm concerned with old people on this blog) by as much 30, 40 and even 50 percent.
My biggest loss was a too-large, so-called “safe” Lehman investment and I read over last weekend that I'll be lucky to get 14 cents on the dollar when the bankruptcy is settled – probably years from now and diminished by collective billions the settlement lawyers are being paid.
Overall in October 2008, my one-day loss was a bit more than 30 percent. I immediately pulled all my investments and put the proceeds into a cash account. It doesn't make any money worth speaking of, but I'm unwilling to re-enter the investment world yet. Even if others are making money, I'm too stupid about investing to feel comfortable with it right now and I don't believe the economy is anywhere near stable.
So belt-tightening continues. Some of my attempts didn't work out well. The ten ceiling lights I replaced with CFLs (far more expensive than incandescents) all burned out within a couple of weeks. I learned the hard way that CFLs cannot be used in sockets that are on dimmer switches. (Why don't they tell us these things up front?)
Moreover, normal incandescent replacements did not work due to heat build-up that triggered flickering, so I had to purchase the special little spotlights that cost almost as much as CFLs and burn out just as quickly as normal incandescents.
Last year, during the entire months of May and June, it rained in Portland, Maine every day but three - the longest period for continuous rainy weather in the history of record-keeping in the city. The result for me was that every pot of herbs, vegetables and berries, which I had doubled in amount from 2008, was killed. Lost investment and increased food costs.
There is better news in my Oregon digs. When I was searching for a new home, monthly expenses were at the top of my considerations. I wanted low condo homeowners association dues, lower property taxes (I pay more here in Maine than I did in Manhattan) and reasonable heating costs.
Although the homeowners dues are about 30 percent greater than what I pay now, the amount is locked in for three years and it covers trash which I have been paying here. Other savings on cable, internet and property tax will lower my total monthly expenses by about 15 percent. Nothing to sneeze at.
A big savings is going to be food. It is always hard to cook for one, but cleaning out the pantry last week taught me an embarrassing lesson about myself.
In the back of the cupboards were about two dozen cans of beans, soup, etc. older than their use-by dates. What happened is that new purchases filled up the front of the shelves hiding older tins I forgot about along with enough bags of split peas for at least 20 gallons of soup, too many boxes and bags of rice, four unopened bottles of soy sauce, two of nutmeg (who uses that much nutmeg?), and similar collections of other condiments.
In Lake Oswego, I will be able to walk to nearby stores and shop more as I did in New York – every day or two as I need stuff. It will reduce over-buying and I'll get more exercise without any effort. I love food shopping and it's even more fun when you don't need to drive. Plus, I will be confined to purchasing only what I can easily carry.
So here's what I'm getting at today. After two years of recession living, what new ideas have you found for saving money that have worked? What didn't work out well or where have you screwed up? And what's your best advice for more savings and squeezing more value out of the money we spend?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Walt Grant: Willie John Pays