"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Whip Inflation Now

     Remember that old line from President Ford? Actually, I think it was subject to a lot of ridicule, because it seemed so ineffective at the time. And of course it is ineffective as a national policy. But there are some practical ideas -- as well as a particular frame of mind -- that can help us save some money and deal with inflation that's currently running at about 6 percent or so.

     For example, Billionaire Warren Buffett knows a thing or two about saving (as well as earning) money. He famously lives in the house he bought for $31,500 in 1958, now worth about $700,000. He equally famously relied on a $20 flip phone for years before he finally gave in and bought an Apple phone in 2020 -- coincidently at about the same time he also bought a chunk of Apple stock.

     Says Buffett: "I do not save what is left after spending. I spend what's left after saving." He also said, "If you buy things you don't need, you will soon sell things you do need."

The Library: It's not just books
     Of course, that's Buffett, who has a way with money that the rest of us don't have. But I saw a good suggestion from a more normal woman on the internet:  Use your library, she says.

     Ask for a tour of your local library and use everything they have to offer. Free books and DVDs. Free access to a computer. Many libraries also offer free classes, book clubs, movie discussion groups, day trips to local museums and concerts.

     A neighbor of mine has been after me now for a couple of years about changing over to a Medical Advantage plan, instead of traditional Medicare plus supplemental plan. He gets prescription coverage as well as dental and vision coverage . . . all for a lower price. The one caveat is that he has to stay within his medical network, but that doesn't seem to bother him at all. Plus, he gets free admission to a local gym -- and he's over there twice a week for a yoga class.

     It's not for everybody, he says. But it's worth thinking about for the next Medicare open enrollment period in the fall.

     Speaking of medical expenses, a friend of ours recently had his knee replaced, and he told us about a medical library run by our Parks & Recreation department. The town loans out all kinds of medical equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc., to town residents for free. If you're going to need some equipment, it might be worth checking out if your town has a similar program.

     I know many people who have "cut the cord" and dispensed with their cable plan, in favor of streaming Netflix and Amazon. It seems like a smart thing to do if you're not the kind of fan that watches live sports on network TV. But even that is changing as some streaming services are starting to carry live sports.

     Others have switched to cheaper cellphone service. We have Verizon. It's a good service, no problems. But it is expensive. So we're beginning to explore some alternatives offered through AARP. There's another service called Cricket. Don't know much about it; but I've got it on my list of services to check out.

      Shop at thrift stores. My brother-in-law reports that he finds lots of gently used name-brand clothes at Goodwill, the Salvation Army and GreenDrop. It takes a bit of picking through the racks, he admits, but he finds some good stuff that looks brand new once he gets it home and puts it through the laundry.

     I'm sure you might have some other ideas. But they all seem to come down to one basic philosophy, as Will Rogers once said: "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people that they don't like."

     One last tip, since it's getting to be tax time, and you might be puzzled and frustrated with all the different forms and schedules. Various organizations have volunteers who will do your taxes for free, if you make less than a certain amount of money. In my area it's the Bucks County Opportunity Council. In your area . . . well, check at the library, they probably know where to go.

     Meantime, just a word of sympathy from the smartest person in history. It was Albert Einstein who said, "The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax."


ApacheDug said...

Excellent post Tom--and heck yes I remember those WIN buttons! I wanted to offer my two cents:
1) I use Mint Mobile for my cellphone carrier--it's $15.00 a month (that includes taxes & fees), it comes with unlimited talk & text, 5GB a month of data. You just have to pay 1 year in advance.
2) I learned you can get a good discount if you select subscribe instead of 'one time only' when purchasing food items online, like k-cups. (It also helps to buy them direct from the manufacturer, I don't know why more people don't do this.)
3) For people who rent like me, when my lease came up this year with its standard monthly increase I contacted them and told them I considered them fine landlords, but I'm a fine tenant too--and I deserve a break. They agreed to freeze my rent until April 2025. It pays to speak up. :^)

Celia said...

Got my taxes done for free by AARP Volunteers at our Senior Center for many years now. Been happy with it.

Miss Merry said...

I remember when Aldi's came to my small town. I told my mother how much I was saving when I switched to shopping there. She told me Aldi's doesn't sell what they like. I said - we eat what Aldi's sells. I designed my menu (for my family of seven) around their offerings.

Eating out has been cut around here. We found a local farmer and buy a beef quarter or half for our freezer. Summer months, their little boys raise meat chickens. For a few pennies more, our local butcher packages for a smaller household and we eat better than restaurants. The pandemic helped me find a local egg producer east of us and a warehouse vegetable operation 20 minutes south of us began selling boxes to consumers and has continued after the pandemic. I really think we are eating healthier and cheaper. It helps that we are retired and have time on our hands to find these bargains and drive to farms for pick up during the week.

Tom said...

Doug -- You must have a silver tongue to persuade your landlord not to raise the rent. I was never so convincing when I was renting. I was able to talk our heating oil people down a few cents a gallon, though, so at least we're warm during these it-seems-like-too-cold March days.
Miss Merry -- I've heard about Aldi's but we don't have one around us. Our strategy instead is Costco and a freezer in the basement ... and my brother-in-law who's a major vegetable gardener.

Anvilcloud said...

Don’t go out for lunch or dinner, especially dinner. Treat yourself OCCASIONALLY by going out for breakfast.

Anonymous said...

I evaluated my routine expenses when I retired and cut a bunch of costs. I use Consumer Cellular for my cell phone, and it's a good deal. Monthly is about $35 but if you exceed your usage, they just up you to the next level for that month and return you to your original plan the next month. I'm in the process of cutting my cable costs, but Comcast has caught on to cable cutters and has structured it so that it makes it harder to save significant money. I'm still trying so will see how it goes.

Mona McGinnis said...

My son has a saying similar to Will Rogers - Go to work to make money to buy sh&t you don't need.

Red said...

Lots of common sense easy strategies to use without being a miser of some kind.

River said...

Good advice here. I never eat out and rarely buy new clothes, I wear what I have until it falls apart. Secondhand clothing in decent condition is hard to find in my size, short and fat. (new clothing ditto). As for Libraries, I found their DVDs are often scratched and hard to view after being loaned out to so many people and computer time is limited to half hour blocks, so for me my laptop is a far better option.

Olga said...

My local library has someone come in to do taxes for people. Libraries are wonderful resources.

Tom said...

I forgot to mention it, because we've gotten so used to it. The two of us used to have two cars. Now we have one. Save on car payments, insurance and repairs. A big difference.

gigi-hawaii said...

I guess I am a spender, as I buy art, many colorful tablecloths, plants, flowers, stuff I really don't need, but add to enjoyment of life. I focus on Beauty and living a beautiful life.

As for medical insurance, I have Humana Medical Advantage. I pay no monthly premium, no co-pay for PCP visits, $25 for specialists, and $90 for the ER. Recently, I underwent an EKG, CT Scan, and MRI at the ER and paid just $90 for all. Not to mention, I get all my drugs for free in the mail.

Rian said...

Tom, we pay a lot for our medigap supplement... and have thought about switching to an advantage plan, but would have to check and see if our doctors (whom we've had for years) are in the network. Also, we heard that if you switch, you can't go back. Our iphones are on the elder plan with T-mobile and we only pay $30 a month for unlimited everything. We don't eat out much... maybe once a month, but do order pizza occasionally. Our utilities are high and getting higher... not sure what we can do about that. And our groceries have really gone up. We continue to buy the same and pay more (probably could cut down there) and we continue to feed the neighborhood ferals. As for books, Kindle on my iPhone is free... and some books on it are free and others less than $5.

Linda Myers said...

We've had Consumer Cellular for our phones for years - no contract and very reasonable rates for unlimited data. We have an Advantage plan through Kaiser Permanente because we love the coordination of services they excel at. Fortunately, they have a contract with Banner Health for snowbirds like us. We've decided that next year when we return to Arizona, we'll leave one of our cars in Washington and share the other in the winter. Savings on insurance and parking fees. My husband Art does all the shopping and cooking - he's a sale seeker so we usually have pretty good prices on what he buys, though it's not at a farmer's market.

DJan said...

We moved from Verizon to Consumer Cellular and saved a bunch, but since we want high speed internet, Comcast would penalize us if we decided to get rid of cable by upping the cost of the internet. They are crooks. We are very happy with CC and don't miss Verizon at all. :-)

Anonymous said...

Check out T-Mobile Magenta 55+ $70 per month for two lines, including tax. We switched a few years ago and have been very happy with the service.

Ed said...

I've always been a fan of Buffet and even took it one step farther. Not only did I save to meet my goals first before spending, but I have always spent less than I could have and then invested those unspent spending dollars for additional savings. We also bought the cheapest house in our neighborhood and I've been fixing it up over the years. It is about half the size of many of our peers but I figure in a handful of years when we are empty nesters, we shouldn't have to downsize like they will do.

Unfortunately, our local library has become more of a welfare program. Their books are becoming fewer in favor of all the things you mentioned, plus ours provides movies, tools, seeds, fishing poles, computers, video game consoles, other electronics, etc. It has gone from three floors of books to about half of one floor of books in order to make room for all those things. This creates long wait times for those of us who still use it to read actual books, so as you might guess, I don't frequent it much these days.

I would like to cut the cord and still might. The biggest problem isn't sports which I don't watch but local news. Out here in rural America, local news and weather is a vital service to stay in touch and cutting the cord means giving up on those as we are too far to receive them via antenna. They do stream on their webpage but it isn't as handy for me as just setting the DVR to record it every evening at a set time. But I think someday soon, there will be a work around and I shall join the list of those cutting the cable cord.

BethC said...

A few more ideas:
1. If you travel and like museums, zoos, aquariums or botanical gardens, buy a museum membership with reciprocal privileges. We went on a 6 week baseball-themed trip across the Midwest last spring. We purchased a $150 family membership at the St. Louis Art Museum (cheaper than our local Philadelphia Art Museum) which gets us into over 900 art and other museums across the country (including a number that are near our home). We visited multiple museums for free (including the Henry Ford and the Art Institute of Chicago) on our trip. If you Google "reciprocal museum memberships," you will find some posts that outline which museums are the best deal.
2. My husband switched his cell phone service to Consumer Cellular and loves it. I am still on my employer's Verizon plan.
3. We scope out Restaurant Weeks in our area. I put the annual dates on my calendar so I can remember to check them out. I also check when we visit another city. New York City has one in the winter that coincides with a 2 for 1 deal for Broadway shows.
4. There is an app called Too Good To Go where you can pay $3.99 or $4.99 to buy restaurant or bakery food that is almost out of date, but still good to eat. You have to reserve a bag and won't know what you are getting until pickup time, but this is part of the fun. I was delighted to see that one of our local favorite ice cream shops participates. I recently paid $3.99 and got 60 (not a typo) bagels from a local bagel shop. I looked for a charity so I could share, but it was late in the day. I shared them with a couple of neighbors who have been kind to us and froze our share. I've heard of another app called FlashFood which has the same concept for supermarkets, but there are none near my home.

Kay said...

We had T-Mobile through our son-in-law who is always into finding the best deal around.

We don't buy things we don't truly need and rarely eat out as restaurants. We do carry-out meals from time to time though.

On the other hand, we do occasionally take trips. Our kids tell us constantly to enjoy what we worked so hard to save. However, we do live very frugally.

DrumMajor said...

Don't switch to an Advantage plan. They take advantage of you! Yes, the premium is more for a supplement, but supplement F or G now, pays that blasted 20% and doc co pays. You can go to any doc or hospital in the country and territories that take Medicare, and you can choose your own Part D for a drug plan that matches a lower price for most of the drugs you take. That Advantage is expensive if you have a hospital stay or urgent care visit. The supplement paid for ALL of the balance of my cochlear implant and it's surgery. I sure didn't want to pay 20% of $130,000! And, you can't switch back without losing a bunch of pre-existing. Go to the gym or local community center by paying $6 a visit, then decide if you want a membership and will actually go to it. Read your state's booklet about Medicare and plans. The tiny print is important as soon as you need a hospital visit or surgery! Linda in Kansas

RetirementCoffeeShop said...

My wife and I love to shop at thrift stores. We always find a good deal. I think every pair of cargo shorts that I own came from thrift stores. I usually pay $2 or less and wear them all summer. If I tear one up or get paint on it, it is very easy to trash it at that point. One of the best deals in entertainment is Redbox. We recently rented A Man Called Otto, which was at the theater not that long ago. Cost was $2.25. You can't beat that price for a good movie! Next in line will be The Whale. Once you start using Redbox, you often get codes for $1.25 off a rental.

Tabor said...

We will never have a flat tax that we can do without help as long as Congress allows lobbying from the financial industry.