No. of Recommendations: 5
Not sure I fit on this board but I need some feedback by people who know pitfalls. I think we're in good shape now, but that could change really fast.

Today is the first official day of my retirement. I will be getting $3300 a month before taxes. I'm leveling SSA with my government pension. I'm 54, so Medicare is a long way away. DH is still employed and grosses $6000 a month. Before the hating starts, please realize I have gotten into scary debt before and dug back out, but some of that was by using inherited funds, and was a one-time deal.

My concerns:

My health insurance will be $590 a month to keep it with my employer. I've shopped around and am getting quotes of $800 a month. I'm pretty healthy, but the ADHD meds and anti-anxiety meds I was on seems to scare ins. companies. I would like to keep my current insurance for 12 months after stopping at least the ADHD meds, which I shouldn't need now that I'm not working.

Because of screwy family dynamics, I've been paying $495 mortgage payment on a house family members live in for "free". They have spent lots of their own money to rehab the house and land, so it was worth it to let them live there, but now, both adults are working full time. I would like to ask them to buy the house for enough to pay off the mortgage ($60K)--I don't really want to get into them paying me monthly, because that seems like a recipe for resentment. So, bringing up the issue of them buying the house is my goal for this month.

We owe $7000 on a vehicle--we have $32k in savings @1.25% interest and the truck payment is @6%--I'd like to just pay this of but DH hates to pull out savings.

Our house payment is $750, we owe $110K--I would like to pay this down or off before DH retires (no set date for that yet).

Our cell phone bill is $290, covering 3 phones and mobile internet. Now that I'm not working, I want to trim our package considerably (lots of my cell time was work-related).

Our cable/digital phone/internet is going up every month, now $224 a month. I want to see if satellite service would be cheaper. I'm a little jumpy about ditching the land line because of the 911 feature, but we never use it.

Right now, we are paying off our CC every month. But we now will be doing projects and maintenance that we've put off forever and don't know what that will cost.

We have two high mileage cars (over 120k miles) and one newer car. DH wants to give one high mileage car to our grandson and buy me another car. I want a used Camry around $18k and pay in cash. He thinks we should get a new Camry at 0% interest and make payments. He expects to work for several more years, but he's 60 and has been eligible to retire with 30+ years for some time.

We are not saving enough. I haven't budgeted for what I can put into savings with my retirement (I was putting $200 in a MM and $240 in my 401k, but can't do that anymore). He is not putting anywhere near enough into his 401k--$300 a month on an income of $92k a year. 6% of his pay goes towards his retirement plan. He has about $55k in his 401k; I have $83k. We have another $115k in mutual funds.

I don't know what our Federal income tax will be WRT my retirement. I don't have to pay state taxes but he does on his salary.

Want I want:
with not commuting 75 miles a day, and not recreationally spending because I'm stressed from work (which I have done way too much) my income will be enough to meet what I usually pay and leave some for savings in a MM.

I want to keep Netflix at $10 a month, World of warcraft at $14 a month, internet and cell phone service but cheaper than now, Booksfree at $20 month (may let that go).

I want to socialize, knowing that all my friends are at least 45 minutes drive away. Same for taking recreational classes.

I want to get our house and property in good enough shape so we won't have $$$ expenses facing us when DH retires--trees taken down, house exterior cleaned and treated (log house).

I want to keep good insurance, even at $590 a month.

I want to have a savings plan that will get us mortgage free by the time both of us are retired, and "enough" savings to support us, especially if Social Security and/or pensions get cut.

I want to get some contract work, but not for six months or so.

I feel like this post is rambling all over the place. I'm just fearful of a history of being spendy, especially when bored or stressed, and not knowing what retirement will be like, living in the middle of nowhere with no local friends and not much connection with the community. I know me, and I could fill my time with $$ activities and purchases and rationalize it very well, put off selling our other house, and put off continuing to build savings. And this board has a rep of keeping people accountable.

Right now, things look solid, but I feel like I'm going into uncharted waters with a history of bad habits. I've paid power bills (at my job) of elderly ladies who had fixed incomes that would have seemed lavish when they were 40, but in 2010, was not enough to meet their needs. I don't want to be one of those ladies.

cm
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No. of Recommendations: 8
Do you guys have a hard budget? Seems like no, because frankly at $9.3K a month, with the tiny house payment you have (and even adding in that other "gift" house payment to your relatives, the total is STILL tiny), you should be saving thousands a month. Not 6%, not $200/month - thousands. The fact that you aren't means you are spending lots of $$$ and you have no idea where it is going. None of what you outline above totals to very much.

A budget can help reign in bad habits. It will highlight where you money goes in ways that may surprise you. But to make it work you have to track every dollar. Not, "oh we each take out $X from the ATM and that's how we budget personal stuff," not "Oh, we don't track the small amounts spent on coffee." Seriously - track where it all goes, and then start trying to corral it. And if you still need to build savings, than frankly, you shouldn't be retiring. You could blow through your entire retirement savings in 1 to 2 years if something happens unexpected, and be left with nothing.

So...new year's word of the day: "BUDGET."
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You're right--we don't know where it's going. Worse, I don't know what some of our basic bills are, because I have several fixed payments direct-drafted from my account, and DH pays power, gas, car payment, cable, cell, and I kind of know what they are, and can look up several years worth of records, but haven't yet. So, putting all our outgo on one spreadsheet is a must.

Savings: $270
$240
$200
$100
------------------
$810
$450
$200
$1460 saving a month for the both of us while working. You're right, that is pathetic. I feel like we have to keep saving, because my pension depends on the plan being sustainable (Local Government Employees Retirement Plan) and DH pays into that same plan. Plus, I can't imagine not saving into an e-fund, even if our track record has been dismal.

My retirement was spurred by not being willing to drive an hour 2x a day to go to a toxic workplace. I went back to school in 2007 so I would be able to contract after leaving my job (paid as I went, so no debt, but that's where some of the money went). I can earn up to $25k without affecting my pension, but don't know if that much work will be available.

In the past, we kept a vacation rental, which was self-sustaining for a while, but got harder to rent and maintain, so we sold it 2 years ago...it had become a money pit. A family member had severe health problems and a lot of money went towards helping him instead of savings. That ended in 2009. And a lot of money, as I said, went towards trying to spend stress away.

So, hard budget starting now. Bills, and tracking the discretionary spending.

And DH has GOT to increase his 401k. Maybe if he sees that our outgo has decreased, he'll feel better about upping that.

thanks!

cm
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...I want to socialize, knowing that all my friends are at least 45 minutes drive away. Same for taking recreational classes.
... a history of being spendy, especially when bored ..., living in the middle of nowhere with no local friends and not much connection with the community.


Living in the middle of nowhere is wonderful when you have a job that forces you into contact with other people, and you need home to be a sanctuary away from others.

However, to be isolated at home full-time is a very different story. Personally, I'm very much a loner, and after retirement was happy to stay at home reading many wonderful books I hadn't had time for earlier. During that time I saw, in general, only my DH (evenings and weekends, since he's still working), the occasional neighbor walking the dog, the occasional contractor in to help me tackle the backlog of house maintenance, and the occasional relative when I made a short trip to visit. Didn't even go shopping: DH does the grocery shopping, and there hasn't been anything else we really need. Anyway, after about 2 years of that, even I, Ms. Happy Hermit, began to feel lonely. Even the most anti-social of us is at core a social animal. Luckily, I live in a pretty dense suburb, so between dance lessons and volunteering at a concert hall I've been able to get out and be around lots of people, as often as I like, very easily.

I suggest you investigate over-55 communities (yes, you're too young now, but if your DH is over 55 they'll let you in as a couple). They typically have a community center with swimming pool and gym; a lot of ongoing activities such as parties, poker, line dancing, yoga; and a lot of excursions to ball games, museums, theaters, cruises, etc.

You might not be interested in 98% of what's available, but if you try different things and find the 2% that you do like, that will make a huge difference in your quality of life.

If you spend when bored, fixing the underlying problem will go a long way to fixing the spending problem.

The catch at this point, of course, is whether there are any such communities an easy commute from your DH's job, and if not, if there's a job he could switch to near an attractive community. A lot of people in the over-55 places are still working, so if/when you tour one, the Realtor can give you a sense of where the residents work and what type of commutes they have.

Congratulations on your early retirement, and best wishes for many healthy, happy years to enjoy it!
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I strongly recommend you go peruse the boards and post at http://early-retirement.org. Your questions are ideal for that board.

In general, it sounds like you don't have a good handle on the family budget. If you are paying some bills and DH is paying others, then that is fine. But it is very hard to work out budgeting if you don't know how much is being paid and what both of you are spending.

I suggest that you track spending for both DH and you so that they two of you can come up with a budget.

Does DH have any pension or is the 401k it for his retirement?

What kind of SS does he expect to get? What about you?

You need to work out a budget for the long term that is based upon your total expected retirement income. For your saved money the general rule of thumb is to spend no more each year than 4% (inflation adjusted) of your starting balance. So if you started with $400,000 in 401ks and other accounts, then spend $16,000 of that a year adjusting it up each year with inflation. There is a lot more to that and some other variations and the retirement board I mentioned is a great place to talk about it.

Do a search on the internet for Firecalc and also run it.

For specifics you mentioned:

We recently dropped our land line. It seemed strange and I wondered about the 911 thing but realized that for most of my life 911 didn't exist and decided it wasn't worth paying for a landline to get it.
I did invest in getting a skype account where I can call real phone numbers using skype. This lets me talk to people while I'm using my computer (which is most of the time) and cuts down on my cell phone minutes. I can also use skype on my cell phone.

For someone who plays WOW, I don't recommend satellite internet. The latency will kill you.
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If DH is still employed, can you be added to his employer's health plan? It probably would be a lot less than $590/mth since he's already paying a portion just for him.

TEDP
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She would need to be careful about that. If she leaves her employer's plan, she may be unable to rejoin it later. She would need to carefully check that.
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This is very helpful. Thanks for the heads up about sat. internet.

DH has the same pension plan as I do, but his earnings, when he does retire, will be a lot higher than mine, so his pension, if solvent, should be more than mine (based on highest 4 years pay). I'm leveling my pension with SSA, so even when I get 62, or 65, it'll be what it is now, adjusted for COLA. He probably won't do that. so it should be around 3k (don't have the file handy).

I'm getting the max payout; he'll take an option with survivor's benefits.

I need to find out where 911 calls from our cell phones go. If they can go to the nearest communications EMS, I'd feel fine about dropping our land line.

We checked his health insurance--it would be about $850 for both of us, and not as good as mine. He pays $150 now.

I'll check out the link. I don't think TMF's early retirement board is going to be helpful, from what I've read.

Great ideas!

cm
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TMF's "early retirement" board is just a lot of political yammering. Great if you like to get all hot and bothered about the political issues of the moment, but fairly useless for actual retirement planning.

I strongly concur that you and your husband need to sit down and map out a combined budget with all bills and all income listed in one place. And perhaps stop having the set up where you each pay bills independently. That is making it harder for you to budget, and also probably masking some budgeting problems/leaks. Not to say you cannot each continue to pay bills separately, but you each MUST know exactly what the other one pays every month and track it in the shared budget.

And, as a heads-up, your health costs will only rise from here on out. If you are only saving <$1000/month on $9300/month income, how on earth are you going to stay in the black at all on $6K a month when DH retires? That will cut your income by 1/3, and I don't see that your savings has enough to allow anywhere close to a monthly draw that will make up the difference. I do recommend you keep working PT, even if it's just being a barista. It will keep you engaged in the world and bring in a little income to boost savings.
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{{I don't think TMF's early retirement board is going to be helpful, from what I've read.}}


The Retire Early Campfire board has been the most knowledgeable board that has helped me and my wife to get our family on a solid foundation for retirement. I learned more from that board than all the other boards on TMF combined. Ask a question there and you will get some very sound answers. Many of the board regulars are retired and spend part of their day chatting with friends. Thus browsing is not very helpful, so I encourage you to post your questions there.



c
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I am glad it helped, you, c. It is true if you ask a direct question about retirement, you will get a good answer at RECF. But I stopped reading it as last time I checked it is about 95% politics these days. That's a lot to wade through.

Early retirement should be something that is non-partisan. This board is of that stripe. RECF, not so much.
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Part of the reason we didn't save more was we were paying down consumer debt we had incurred, and I was paying about $300 a month grad school tuition, books, and commute that lasted 3.5 years. That gave me an MSW, which will make it easier to find temp and contract work after I get my house in order.

We swung between LBYM, feel-good spending, and some medical expenses (hip replacement for DH, neck surgery for me).

I figure a hip replacement is in my future as well...


cm
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You can get phone over internet (VOIP) - we use OOMA, got the box at Costco and paid $300 for "lifetime" of free phone service. With VOIP service you can call 911 and not only is it routed to the correct PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point), but it also transmits your name and address. It is so important for people who are getting older to have that capability - if you having a stroke or some other medical condition, 911 will at least have your address. If you call from a cell phone it may go to the correct PSAP, but if you are unable to talk, it is very difficult to locate you. At my previous job as a 911 dispatcher, we received 20 to 30 911s from cell phones a day. We would call the number back but if no one answered or if we couldn't get through, that was all we could do. Cell phone companies make it extremely difficult to get subscriber name and address - it has to be life or death situation and they don't consider 911 hang-ups to be life or death. If we did hear someone gasping or obviously needing an ambulance, the cell phone companies demand a fax requesting subscriber information, then they call back and give it to us. That could take up to 30 minutes. I have VOIP so if my kids need to call 911, they don't have to worry about remembering our address if it's a panic situation for them.
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If you are only saving <$1000/month on $9300/month income, how on earth are you going to stay in the black at all on $6K a month when DH retires? That will cut your income by 1/3, and I don't see that your savings has enough to allow anywhere close to a monthly draw that will make up the difference.

This depends on situation. DH was retired mid-year and I moved to working part-time. Our expenses are much less than they were when he was still working and I was full time and are much, much, much less than they were when we were paying down debt.

In our case, once we can sell our current house and downsize our expenses will be much, much less.

But some of things that are different:

Clothing and dry cleaning - Our clothing needs are much less than before and mostly casual clothing. I do still have to dry clean work clothes but I go to the office once a week as opposed to 5 days a week so the cleaning costs are much less.

Dining out -- Much, much less. At first we still ate out a couple times of week. The last few months it has dropped down to about twice a month. Much less than when we were working full time. Grocery bill is down overall as we need fewer convenience foods.

Gasoline, toll charges, auto maintenance all down a lot since we drive less.

So - if OP has been paying off prior debts and has expenses now that will decrease during retirement then $6000 a month may be very doable, particularly if willing to reduce lifestyle. DH and I thought about it and really decided that we would prefer to reduce lifestyle and retire earlier rather than have to work more years to maintain the same lifestyle.
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"Our cell phone bill is $290, covering 3 phones and mobile internet. Now that I'm not working, I want to trim our package considerably (lots of my cell time was work-related)."

I use a Tracfone that costs me less than $10 a month.
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cm-
First- I am SO excited for you now that you are retired.
I know it has been a long road recently

I will address these two points only.
Our cell phone bill is $290, covering 3 phones and mobile internet. Now that I'm not working, I want to trim our package considerably (lots of my cell time was work-related).

Even if you break a cell phone contract - after a couple months you will come out ahead when you have a less expensive plan.

I pay right now @ $125/month with Sprint.
3 phones, 1200 (or 1500 not sure which) minutes/month. Sprint-to-Sprint calls do not count as minutes. Unlimited data (internet), Unlimited Text, no roaming charges.

Our cable/digital phone/internet is going up every month, now $224 a month. I want to see if satellite service would be cheaper. I'm a little jumpy about ditching the land line because of the 911 feature, but we never use it.

Cancel Cable.
Can you get Internet via DSL? (in my area the combined Internet/ landline phone cost is @$60/month) - this has been fast enough for WoW in our experience.
That way you can keep the land line, and when the power goes out, you still have coverage.
Honestly - if you have internet and Netflix (streaming!) there is very little that cable has to offer you that you cannot go get at your leisure on the internet.


peace & a couple few options
t
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"Our cell phone bill is $290, covering 3 phones and mobile internet. Now that I'm not working, I want to trim our package considerably (lots of my cell time was work-related)."
-------------------------------------------------------------
I use a Tracfone that costs me less than $10 a month.


This is stellar!for you.

but not helpful to the OP who has a different lifestyle.


peace & I bet you spend more than I do on cable
t
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Can you get Internet via DSL? (in my area the combined Internet/ landline phone cost is @$60/month) - this has been fast enough for WoW in our experience.

DSL is fast enough for wow depending on speed of service. We used to have very fast DSL but cancelled it and went to cable. Recently we inquired about getting back the DSL and we were told we could get barely above dial up speed. We were totally baffled by this since we had previously had great DSL speed. Long story short, it turned out there are only so many connections into our subdivision and when we cancelled our fast one, someone else now has it and we can't get it again unless someone gives up DSL...

But definitely worth the OP looking into to see if she can get decent DSL speed.


Honestly - if you have internet and Netflix (streaming!) there is very little that cable has to offer you that you cannot go get at your leisure on the internet.

We used to spend a lot more on cable TV, we've pared down from a bunch of connections to 2 and no extra pay channels. We really mostly stream Netflix. I keep trying to talk my DH into cancelling TV (keeping internet service of course). Our internet service cost would go up since it is less now due to having TV but I still think we would save. The biggest issue is that my mother visits several times a year and would have a cow if we didn't have TV. She only wants to watch ABC, NBC, and CBS but she wasn't it nonstop (of course, she is in her late 80s so I don't begrudge her this).
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Our cable/digital phone/internet is going up every month, now $224 a month. I want to see if satellite service would be cheaper. I'm a little jumpy about ditching the land line because of the 911 feature, but we never use it.

To be honest, I would not go with the internet phone service. A couple of years ago my mother's town was hit with an ice storm that brought down all the power lines. People with internet phone service were helpless unless they had a cell phone, and if you can't charge your cell phone things could get dicey on the 3rd, 4th, 5th day of the power outage. My mother had a functioning phone, and was able to call my brother to get help.

I have a T-Mobile phone. I paid $100, and when I had lots of time leftover at the end of the year I paid another $10.00, and the remaining minutes were renewed. I don't know if that would work for you, but it might be worth considering. I use the cell phone for long-distance calls, and am about to ditch the long distance service.

Nancy
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"I bet you spend more than I do on cable"

And I'm annoyed about it every time we write the check. I think its about $60/month, and why I need multiple versions of ESPN to get basic+ service is one of life's great mysteries. We've come pretty close to cancelling a few times, but we get some free pay-per-view children's shows as part of the package (not sure why) that the kids like so we figure its a decent value. But I still wish I could select channels "ala carte." I could cut at least 1/2 the channels that we simply don't watch.
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t,
we need to stay with Verizon to get decent reception in our area. I think we can drop it down some, though.

I'm really leaning towards dropping the landline--since it's digital, it's out if the power is out. Our cell phones would keep a charge as long as we needed: we have a well so if we're out of power more than 1-2 days we'd be looking at going somewhere with power.

I could stand doing without cable, but DH would be very unhappy. I plan to call and see if I can negotiate a customer retention discount--can't hurt to ask.

We haven't spent a penny throughout the first day of 2011. That feels good.

cm
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determinedmom,

You wrote, DSL is fast enough for wow depending on speed of service. We used to have very fast DSL but cancelled it and went to cable. Recently we inquired about getting back the DSL and we were told we could get barely above dial up speed. We were totally baffled by this since we had previously had great DSL speed. Long story short, it turned out there are only so many connections into our subdivision and when we cancelled our fast one, someone else now has it and we can't get it again unless someone gives up DSL...

I've never worked for a phone company; but I've worked for a modem manufacturer, studied DSL and cable modem architectures and I've worked for a cell phone manufacturer, so I'm not totally unqualified to speak about DSL modems.

DSL modems are point-to-point connections. For POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), every neighborhood has what's known as a central office (CO). The CO is where the first-level switch hardware is located. It's also where all the twisted pair (unshielded) copper phone lines connect into the system. In the POTS system, this used to be where a switch and a concentrator were located. Each line was connected into a switch that had your phone number assigned to that port. When you dialed out, the switch would interpret the signal and establish a connection on a T1 or T3 line back to the home office. There the connection might be routed inside or outside of the LATA or to a long-distance carrier where further routing might be done. How all that works is a whole other discussion.

With DSL there is a rack (or racks) of DSL modems (not the same as ones they put in your home) in your local CO that are used to provide DSL service. Those modems are connected to a server in the CO, which is in turn connected [at relatively high data rates via T1, T3 or fiber] to a back-bone server that acts as a router/bridge for the local phone company's (ILEC's) DSL internet connection.

When you subscribe to DSL, a tech goes out to the CO and runs a patch from the port of your phone's connection to an open DSL modem port. What your technician seemed to be saying was that when the CO had last done a DSL equipment upgrade, they had only purchased a small number of newer [higher speed, longer range] DSL modems. Likely all of these had slowly been used up by either new subscribers or old subscribers asking for the same higher speed service their neighbors had.

In other words, your phone company isn't willing to do a relatively small capital investment just to get your business. [OK, their equipment supplier may want them to install another full rack of modems, which might be a $50-100K purchase, which they could never recoup from a single subscriber; but that seems unlikely since it would also limit the phone company's ability to deploy DSL service to more rural service areas...]

BTW, there are other reasons people in a DSL subscriber area might still not be able to get DSL. The most common is that the "last mile" for a POTS phone line can be quite long - much longer than a mile - and DSL can't cope well with the amount of signal loss experienced in very long lines. But of course if you had high speed DSL service at this location in the past, these concerns wouldn't apply in your case. But ever case is different. Even if you do have a good DSL connection, because of routing and right-of-way constraints, your neighbor may not even be able to establish a DSL connection.

Here's TMI on DSL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymmetric_Digital_Subscriber_L...

Notice that the first official standard was released in 1998. I studied the technology back in 1997, so some of my knowledge is probably dated...

- Joel
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cm -

I dropped cable about 8 years ago and signed up for Netflix. I was on the Netflix 3 DVDs at a time plan (which is about $20/mo and let's you rotate so that you can avoid the lag time for shipping), but recently down-sized to the 2 DVDs/mo (now about $16/mo). Netflix now has many programs available for Instant Watch, and if you have that capability it gives you a lot more flexibiility with a 1 or 2 DVD/mo plan.

When we first dropped cable, I really missed having access to the Discovery, History and Comedy Central channels...but many of these programs are available through Netflix.

All my tv watching is through basic air antenna. That became a little more difficult with the switch to digital/HD because many channels dropped out. But different televisions in the house pick up different reception and between them I get the 3 major networks, local tv and a few other channels that run primarily syndicated programs. When we 1st dropped cable, it was due primarily to keep the kids focused more on school work and secondarily to reduce costs. After a few years, I looked into signing up again but decided it really wasn't worth it as the non-cable arrangement (supplemented w/Netflix) worked out really well, and I found that I did not miss the old cable channels so much.

Since you said you live on the outskirts, don't know how strong your antenna signal would be for this option. If your DH is a big sports viewer, then cable does offer some benefits.

WRT phone options. I also use Verizon and have 3 cells and mobile internet tied to the account; however our bill is only about $220/mo (vs. your $290). I minimized the cost by keeping the mobile internet (for Netbook) to the lower volume plan (which is about $40/mo rather than the unlimited plan for $60+). When I use the Netbook around the house, it operates from the WiFi; and often when I use the Netbook on the road, I can get free WiFi from Starbucks, hotel, etc. So I find the need to connect to the Verizon mobile internet is rare, and have no problem getting by with the lower-cost (limited data) plan. Ultimately (when the contract is up), it may be cheaper to purchase the "pay as you go" minutes (initial cost for USB connector is about $100 at BestBuy) if the limited plan is doable. Verizon did not charge any penalty when I changed my mobile internet plan only 6 mos into the original contract, as long as I kept their service.

Also, what services do you carry on your 3 cells? Based on your posts, it sounds like it is just you and your DH with 3 cells between you. If that's the case, do you still need 3 cells now that you are not working? I personnally carry two cells (one for work and one personal)...since they are both with me all the time, only one needs to have the more expensive "smart phone" service. The other phone is not a smart phone and therefore costs just $10/mo for the basic service, which is adequate for handling calls and accessing voicemail. The 3rd cell (for DS) has smart phone services. So, our arrangement/plan is pretty functional and if this will work for you, it would save you about $70/mo.

Recently I dropped one of two land lines. The 2nd line had been for business and I "ported" that number to the (3rd) cell phone. The nice thing about doing this is that it gave me more flexibility (since I have the cell phone with me, I was able to take calls anywhere and did not have to call in for messages, and it saved me the hassle of notifying clients/contacts of a new number). The remaining land line has the most basic/cheapest service for local calls (about $10/mo). Friends and family can still call on that line...which is preferred over using/holding a cell phone for long conversations. I use my cell when making long distance calls out and also try to personal time calls for evenings/weekends to keep my cell minutes down. My Verizon plan is the lower range (700 minutes/mo shared between the 3 phones)...and using this strategy I have never run over the minutes.

Our internet is through our telephone service. I've managed to keep this at the "introductory" rate for several years. When ever the intro rate is due to expire, I "switch" to one of their other plans (i.e., premium or pro or ultra or whatever), which makes me eligiable for a new intro rate.

Hope some of these suggestions will help. With some creative planning, you should be able to knock at least $100 or more from your current cell/phone/internet/cable costs.

MT
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Thanks, MT, good ideas!
We have 3 cells because we carry DS's phone to take advantage of the family plan. I did look at 6 months of bills and we are under our allotted minutes every month, so I'm looking at alternate plans tonight.

I'm calling Time Warner tomorrow and see about another intro plan, as you said. DH is not going to go for cutting out cable, although I don't think the landline is a big deal.

I got my data plan when I was on the road aLOT and needed internet access.
The unlimited access for one fee is a discontinued plan that I was grandfathered in on when Alltel and Verizon merged, and Verizon doesn't have anything like it...

Streaming Netflix is going to keep my Netflix at 1 at a time, I think.

I did find some "hidden" money--DH habitually carries way too much money in his checking account--we have overdraft protection that pulls from our savings, so I can't see the point in this. Trying to talk him into either upping his 401k or paying down his car payment.

Wow, that looked stupid seeing it typed out...car loan for sure.

cm
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cm -

Some other random thoughts.

Verizon also offers a service that allows you to set up your smart phone as a WiFi hot point. They also have a separate gadget called the "MiFi" that functions as a WiFi modem for up to 5 devices. I believe the cost is about $69/mo (check that), as well as the cost of the MiFi unit (which you may be able to free or discounted through Verizon promo). If the service & speed are adequate at your property, this could function as your internet/dsl for home systems (and your home computer would have to be WiFi enabled). When I considered this option, it only made financial sense if the Netbook-specific service could be dropped and have it connect through the MiFi. This arrangement can be problematic if the MiFi needs to be in two places at one time...like if you are away with the Netbook and DH wants to be on the computer at home. So, it's not for everyone. However, if you intend to do more traveling later on (once DH retires), the MiFi option starts to look pretty good too...why pay for service tied to the house when no one is there to use it?

FYI, Netflix lets you set up "sub accounts" when you have the multi-DVD plans. So you and DH can have individual queues and Netflix tracks the queues independently (i.e., so when you return your dvd, the next one from your queue is shipped). DH may find this flexibility handy.

MT
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"Our cell phone bill is $290, covering 3 phones and mobile internet. Now that I'm not working, I want to trim our package"

Do you really need mobile internet? Cutting that from your package would reduce the cost considerable.
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"my mother visits several times a year and would have a cow if we didn't have TV. She only wants to watch ABC, NBC, and CBS but she wasn't it nonstop"

Have you tried the digital "antenna" box? We have a TV that is not hooked up to cable, and with the box it picks up CBS, NBC, and the local FOX affiliate nearly always, ABC most of the time, and a couple of oddball channels in various languages other than English. Would that be enough to keep your mom entertained? (I sympathize with this particular "necessity" - if my mother couldn't watch Wheel of Fortune I don't think she'd stay at my house.)
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I've never heard of a digital antenna box but will go research it.
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I've never heard of a digital antenna box but will go research it.

determinedmom


The whole story in the conversion from analog transmission to digital is here at

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/digital-converter-box.h...

Put simply, when the FCC mandated stations to switch to digital transmission from analog, most older TV’s without a digital tuner lost their channels. So the need for a box that took digital and converted it to analog for these older sets. Some stations transmit boith analog and digital and that’s why you are getting the channels you have.

Check out Radio Shack for a unit. Price is about $60-70 (there was once a certificate issued by the FCC to lower the cost but I believe that’s ended).

Ask for a DTA box or digital TV converter.

MichaelR
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If you have a newer TV, like an LCD chances are it is digital-compatible and no additional box needed. If you have an old tube-style TV then you would need a converter box.

I gave up cable two years ago. Where I am I can receive 50+ channels OTA including all the major networks, 4 varieties of PBS, and lots & lots of Spanish and Mandarin channels that I don't care about. I also watch a lot of stuff on Netflix streaming, hulu and the networks' own websites. And heck, it's all free. I miss Bravo a bit, but not enough to pay for it.
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Where I am I can receive 50+ channels OTA including all the major networks, 4 varieties of PBS, and lots & lots of Spanish and Mandarin channels that I don't care about. I also watch a lot of stuff on Netflix streaming, hulu and the networks' own websites. And heck, it's all free. I miss Bravo a bit, but not enough to pay for it.

I wish. Where I am, we receive three channels: QUBO, QVC, and ION. It's not even the good ION; there's only so much Ghost Whisperer one can take. I broke down and added the $18 basic cable last year. ;-)

TEDP
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Thanks Michael - that's exactly what I meant, but you explained the technology much better than I could. I can, however, vouch for the fact that the reception isn't half bad.
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Called the cable company--our latest bill for cable/phone/internet had been $240 when our old contract ran out. Dropped it to $197 while upgrading to faster internet connection (would have been $192 without the upgrade).

The cell plans have gone up since we started our contract, so that will stay as it is for now (I had been estimating but it's actually $260).

I figure I'm cutting $12 in gas and $8 in lunch and soda in one day by not going to work. I have a feeling my actual work-related expenses are more than what I realized. I knew they were high, but that's $100 a week (if I ate out every day--it was probably more like $75 a week).

Still more trimming and budgeting to do--I'm fine-tuning Quicken to break down expenses more accurately (almost everything we buy goes on one credit card).

Thanks, folks!

cm
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Can you cut costs on food/groceries? Stop eating out, buy in bulk, store brands instead of name brands, cook from scratch instead of convenience foods in packages, meatless meals 2-3X/week, water instead of soda, vinegar/baking soda/rubbing alcohol/generic ammonia in lieu of all those overpriced cleaning products.

Does your daughter have a job? My goddaughter has been working in closing stores sinces the 12th grade - in additon to the income, she gets all her clothes at a discount and has parlayed the experience into a couple of good fashion merchandising internships, which is the line of work she intends to pursue. It hasn't hurt her grades in the least. Can your husband pick up any part-time gigs (cater-waitering, tending bar, driving a limo, substitute teaching or teaching those exam prep courses) while he is waiting to complete his training? I know these are not glamourous gigs, but it's not glamourous to be over one's head in debt, either.
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Just wanted to put the numbers together for you that you've given us
so far. Other people have already mentioned the disparity between
your income and your known expenses, but it always helps me see things
better to put numbers in a chart.


health ins (Cobra) 590
family mortgage 495
vehicle payment 350 (guess)
house payment 750 110K balance (pay off within 5 years?)
cell phone 290
cable/ph/internet 224
Dh 401k 300
Money market? 200
401k (not anymore) 240
Netflix 10
WOW 14
Booksfree 20
------
Total 3483

Expected after-tax inc 7600
Unaccounted for 4117


So, it seems like you have a little detective work ahead of you, to identify where you money is going, and redirect it to go to what's most important to you. The good news is that with $4K unidentified, you ought to be able to jigger things around to have at least a couple of thousand a month to put towards saving and debt payoff and that sort of thing.

Good luck! I'm pulling for you.


--Booa
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yew guise, most people living out in the middle of nowhere WANT to be there for some reason or other and if they are like me certainly can't afford "those communities".

If I should tell my husband I wanted to move he'd say (perhaps) "don't let the door hit you in the butt" or perhaps "BYE!".
I'm not saying her situation is the same, but as a person who lives out a half hour or more from everything (with a BFF from high school w ho lives further out, but closer to a small town) I know of which I speak.

joycets
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