January 28, 2017 — Dear Members. On our “Are You Ready for Retirement” thread MaryNB started an interesting thread about cost of living and coping with various expenses. That generated a raft of suggestions, so many that we have decided to move them all here to a new post just on that subject. Below are the Comments moved over from the original. Feel free to add your own!
This may be off topic, but part of the calculations about cost of living. The references to food costs have me wondering what people spend per week for food per person. I am in New England and eat organic only. I haven’t kept track much, as I often am eating on the run.
by MaryNB — January 21, 2017
I eat mostly non organic at $75 per week and live in Cali.
by toula1955 — January 21, 2017 |
Hi Mary NB and Artie11:
You are right this is probably off topic, but it is an expense that must be factored in to just living.
I would love to know what other people spend weekly on food costs and include house supplies such as soap, TP, paper towels, personal care products such as shampoo and deodorant–all combined. Also do they shop weekly like every seven to eight days or so or twice a month? Yes Washington, DC and the metro area are very expensive–no doubt about it. My Aunt in Naples Florida does not spend any less–in fact she spends more than the $400 per month that I spend. I do not buy processed foods–I make my own food when I am at home from scratch and I do buy organic in most cases. I am a vegetarian and do not buy dairy or meat products for the most part. Occasionally I will buy a fresh salmon filet but not often. I suspect that others spend as much or maybe more based on the informal poll I took with my single friends here in DC.
by Jennifer — January 21, 2017
I live in New England too and do not budget food purchases. I shop as needed and look for bargains. I go way, way over on purchases but have no guilt because we don’t eat at restaurants but a handful of times a year if that. We have excellent home made foods. My hub attended many one day culinary classes at the Culinary Institute of America and likes to cook gourmet type meals. Most times when I eat in a restaurant I am very disappointed with what I get compared to what we make at home. We are on the other end of the spectrum. We spend a lot and shop at many sources during the month. So I wouldn’t be a good example of budgeting. One thing that I am kind of interested in is buying into a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) for vegetables. That would be one way to control produce costs but you have to have an open mind because you might get vegetables that you have never eaten.
by Louise — January 21, 2017
Well, my husband and 2 cats get by on $400 per month and that includes house supplies. We don’t eat much meat but alot of fish. We eat alot of veggies and fruit ,mostly non organic. Nothing gourmet but we are satisfied, and very healthy for you.
by toula1955 — January 21, 2017
Louise, I have the exact feelings that you do. I am a gourmet cook and I am amazed at what people in DC will eat and pay for as far as dining out. Many restaurants are mediocre at best and I feel cheated if I find an exciting restaurant to try and then experience food I could have made better at home. I too am looking into CSA’s here in DC–we have a few. I am single however and I am not sure I could eat the amount of food they supply each week in a box. I am checking into it and will report back.
by Jennifer — January 22, 2017
I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. I hate its policies but love it prices on produce and grocery items. I can get a big head of romaine lettuce for 98 cents. Unheard of around here. I really shop around for the best prices but have no idea how much I spend each month. We save at Walmart then splurge at Fresh Market for meat and seafood!’
by Staci — January 22, 2017
Jennifer, as far as CSA they have different sizes. You could also find an interested party to share with. Another idea is if you can find out what to expect in your box, you could look up some recipes to use them in and maybe freeze them. Just saw a tv cooking show where they used left over pickle juice to pour over carrots, onions and other veggies for refrigerated pickled veggies. Save that juice! Tomatoes can be frozen whole after cleaning them up and removing stem to use for sauce later on. Look in your frozen vegetable case at the store to see what they have for ideas on how to freeze produce. Peppers are excellent when put on the grill with olive oil. Plus, if you still have too much stuff make up some casseroles and give them to family or bring to work for lunchtime to share with friends!
Ha, ha! Yes, eating out can be a big disappointment for sure! I can buy a lot of groceries for $100 compared to some dinky dinner for two at a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, I like it at times, but more economical to eat at home!
by Louise — January 22, 2017
Moved from Maine – I thought groceries were high there due to so much produce, dairy, etc. having to be shipped in except during the summer. I found great prices on local fish however – like fresh lobsters just off the boat for 5 dollars apiece! Now in South Carolina, a regular grocery run costs so much more – a huge surprise as gardens can produce fresh veggies almost year round. This area is a huge growing location for tomatoes and watermelon, yet the prices run 3.99 a pound for commercial tomatoes at our local Publix, even at the height of the season! What I have learned, true for peaches and watermelons as well, as that the big commercial growers here ship it all off to other parts of the world! Our best practice is to find good roadside stands and u-pick farms for produce, buy local fish, and look for good deals at the farmers market. We try to eat seasonally- whatever is fresh and avaialable each season. We buy household items in bulk from Amazon’s “pantry” online or at discount stores such as Cotsco or Sam’s Club. Still – monthly we spend about 600.00 for 2 of us! Second biggest monthly expense, after healthcare premiums!
by SandyZ — January 22, 2017
SandyZ I do a lot of things as you do. I shop on Amazon for bulk items like kleenex tissues and I don’t have Amazon Prime so I just make sure I purchase the minimum needed to get free shipping. I shop Costco on line and order Toilet paper, garbage bags, coffee creamer and just started buying this canned beef that is like pot roast in a can and it is excellent! Makes a quickie dinner that is delish! I shop at Walmart and just the other day I purchased canned and pouched salmon and smoked herring canned. Good for Omega 3’s. My grocery store offers buy one get 2 free a lot, so I stock up. I shop the bargains and non bargains but I could go without shopping for weeks and still have food in the house and feed the neighborhood! I am sure I spend more than $600 a month for two people and two dogs. Dogs are on prescription food and is expensive! No bargains for them! Fish here is expensive. I would like to have lots more fish but not too many bargains there. That is why I am trying to buy canned salmon, sardines, trout and herring to get some fish in our diet!
by Louise — January 22, 2017
Food prices on the west coast sound pretty reasonable from what Im hearing for all of you on the east coast. Tomato’s go for $1 per pound, most fruit for the same. Fish at less than $4 per pound.
by toula1955 — January 22, 2017
Anyone have any thoughts about if you are ready for retirement or not?
by Admin — January 23, 2017
We are about a year away from full retirement. DH has Parkinsons so we will not be able to delay much longer. (I am 62 and he is 60)
Regarding food prices – we visited the Portland Maine area in Oct. ’15 on a retirement research trip and, among other things, we visited one of the Hanaford supermarkets. I wrote down prices of things I usually buy and found them to be much CHEAPER than our local Publix in SE Tennessee. I have also been disappointed in the overall quality of the meat we get in TN, at the supermarket, and now buy meat, mostly from a local butcher. We DO have Aldi Markets here (which is HALF of Publix pricing) – will have to make monthly runs to New Hampshire for that!!
Currently, I generally withdraw $400-500 for two weeks of groceries, general shopping and lunch or dinners out and I try to make it last longer. We use a credit card for gasoline and my husband is still working.
by HEF — January 23, 2017
HEF if you don’t already have a rewards credit card you should look into it. I use my Costco Visa for 99.8% of everything I buy. You get points for groceries, gas, dining out and just about anything you can charge. I charge copays at the doctor’s office, all medical bills, car repairs, tires, hotels, health insurance, limo service, on line purchases. Anything you can use a Visa for, I charge it. This year I will get about $440 in reward money. I collect it at Costco or I can spend it there. Other rewards cards, other than Costco, have similar programs. My eye doctor never took credit cards till recently and I jumped on that as soon as I if found out! $440 isn’t life changing but I would have spent the money anyway so why not get a little reward at the end of the year. Just make sure you pay off that credit card each month. There are some cards that reward something like 3% on groceries up to a certain dollar amount per year then it goes to 1%. The Costco Visa rewards nicely for gas and dining out. However, those are two areas that I don’t buy much of. So the majority of my purchases are only rewarded 1%. When my bank started pushing a reward card about 5 years ago I just poo pooed it and couldn’t be bothered. But somehow I got hooked on the Costco Visa (previously Amex) and love it! Should have done it years ago!
by Louise — January 23, 2017
We both have a “rewards Visa” but we don’t use a credit card often and we don’t have debit cards – we much prefer cash. If I don’t have it, I don’t spend it. Our rewards cards give us the option of gift cards when we earn enough points and we usually save them for a trip or gift. We don’t shop at the big box stores any more – still do not understand paying a membership fee to “save” money and with just two of us now, we don’t need much. But, thanks for sharing that info.
by HEF — January 24, 2017
It is my understanding that the COSTCO VISA rewards are available at the end of the year. So I use a regular VISA at COSTCO that gives me 2% on all purchases and it is available monthly. Also Amex Preferred pays 6% for groceries up to 6K a year and 3% for gas.
by Ron F — January 25, 2017
Good information on the Amex Preferred card! However, is there a yearly fee for this Amex card? Costco Visa has no fees.
by Louise — January 26, 2017
There is a fee for the AMEX Preferred card. I think $90.00. But what I spend for food and gas makes up for it big time. Just on food alone it is over double comparing a 2% cash back. Do your calc to determine if it works for you.
by Ron F — January 26, 2017
Louise: I’m becoming a fan of your postings! I think we’re twins. I don’t use Costco, but I do use a no-fee bank card that gives me money back on purchases. I’ve started using it for everything that I possibly can, like my cable bill, groceries that I used to pay for with checks, etc. I’m able to pay it off each month. The money can be swept into a bank account when it hits $50. I’ve also earned about $400+ back each year by aggressively using the card for all purchases. I also use a few store cards that offer specific discounts, like Target and Amazon.
The other day I realized that over 40+ years I’ve accumulated way too many Visa-Master Card etc. cards (more than a dozen) that I don’t use by getting suckered into various premiums. Yesterday I got a crazy promotion for a fancy black card with a $1000 annual fee – are they kidding? (I guess the clerk at Walmart would be very impressed with the fancy card when I paid for my Tide and toilet paper with it.) I’ve heard that canceling cards can damage your credit, so I want to wait to close them out until after I figure out if I’ll need to buy anything with a bridge mortgage, etc. when I retire.
by Kate . — January 27, 2017
Kate, ha, ha! Twins! I am an only child! Did we get separated at birth! LOL!
I do like the Costco Visa card. I do not go to Costco all that often but at times I order on line. They have a limited amount of items on line, not like the store. However, I just read recently that they may up their on line offerings. With my Costco Visa I get 2% off on Costco purchases. I purchased a sofa and love seat last year. Soon I am going to buy eye glasses. Their prices are excellent and offering $40 off a second pair. Costco has lots of things to offer besides big boxes of cereal. Like vacations, cars, insurance, photo services, hearing aids, eye glasses, prescriptions, office supplies. Years ago I had a dog that needed a very expensive cancer drug and I was able to get it at Costco at a much more reasonable price compared to a hospital pharmacy or a local pharmacy. I bought my last computer from Costco too and they offer a warranty beyond the manufacturers.
I am not a good coupon person because I rarely find much that interests me. Seems they typically use coupons to encourage purchases of new products or junk food. Then when I do find a coupon that I might use, seems like they want you to buy two items so the coupon isn’t that valuable. I always wonder how these coupon queens buy hundreds of dollars of grocery items and spend like $10! I would like to learn though!
What have others done to pinch pennies a bit since retirement?
by Louise — January 27, 2017
We cut the cord on home phone land line and satellite tv service 3 years ago.
That saves almost $1,800. Per year. The reconnect charges were just too much for a few months each year. We don’t miss it that much, and I really like not having a land line. DH finds football games on the laptop he deems essential.
We also switched to flat rate, no contract “Cricket ” cell phones too. They cost less than the BIG company!
I do wish we could figure out how to do a cost efficient way of doing Internet service while we are in transition mode. That has been a challenge.
by Caps — January 27, 2017
Hi Louise and Kate:
I do not use coupons because I spend less NOT using them. They rarely have the type of items I want and yes if you are a fan of junk food, and sugary sodas they would be a bargain. I do not have the space for tons of paper towels and toilet paper so I do not go to Costco. You are correct that you can buy lots of things at Costco–even funerals (caskets). Costco is for those who have large homes with room to store in bulk and I used to be in that category, but I am now more of a minimalist and I just buy what I need and maybe one extra–and no more. That would be things like laundry detergent which I buy at Trader Joes and Trash bags-which I purchase the store brand at a local (Giant) grocery store. I also buy store brand Kleenex (99 cents) for more tissues per box then the brand name. I use one and have one in reserve. I do use a coupon for a PUR water filter but that is because it comes in the box with the filter and I save $2.00 on the next one I purchase. Again I use that item, so I use the coupon.
by Jennifer — January 28, 2017
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For further reading:
7 Out of the Box Ideas for Saving a Retirement Savings Shortfall