From the Editor’s Desk

Gary Foreman

Ways to Start Preparing for Winter

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

Living in Florida can skew how you see the weather. For instance, we still see high 80s in mid to late October. But I was raised up north so I remember well what winter was like. You don’t grow up on Lake Michigan without knowing what an icy wind feels like.

Knowing that winter is coming and being prepared for it are two different things. Let’s see if we can’t help you get ready for the cold weather to come.

We’ll start with some home winterization. Do it now before the really cold weather hits. “Minimize the Costs of Winter’s Chill With These Home Prep Steps” is a great beginning.

Follow that up with “12 Frugal Home Winterization Tips.” I’m sure that you’ll find a couple that will make your home more comfortable and your heating bills lower.

One place that a lot of northern homes lose heat is in their attics. Until recently, many homes had very little insulation between the roof and attic or between the attic and top floor. “How to Insulate an Attic for Lower Energy Bills” will show you how to tell if you have enough insulation and, if not, what you can do about it.

And it’s not just your house that needs to be ready for winter. I recall how hard it could be to start a car that had endured a winter’s night of sub-zero temperatures. Don’t curse your car on that cold January morning. Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving now and you’ll be grateful later.

Do you need to do any of this right now? Perhaps not. But you don’t need to be a meteorologist to know that winter’s coming. And that means colder weather. So a little preparation now could save you time and money in just a few short weeks.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary

Some Surprising Retirement Stats All Ages Should Consider

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

I recently read an article with an intriguing title Jaw-Dropping Stats About the State of Retirement in America. And, while my jaw didn’t really drop, the article did highlight some important facts. Here are a couple of quotes from the article.

“Of the 47.8 million Americans ages 65 and older, the average income is only $38,515 dollars, according to the U.S. Census, and their average net worth is $170,516.”

“Average life expectancy is not a good way to plan for how much money you’ll need in retirement; many Americans live much longer than the average of 78.7 years, going well into their 80s or 90s.”

“Despite 77% of Americans having retirement plans, many people just don’t have enough saved to actually fund their post-retirement life at the same level as their working years. In fact, for Americans between ages 55 and 64, the median retirement savings was just over $107,000, according to a 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO notes that this amount, which may sound significant, would only translate into a $310 monthly payment, and only if it was invested in an inflation-protected annuity.”

Most of us who are not already retired hope that it will be a time of well-earned leisure after decades of hard work. But the real stats show a big difference for many. On average, Social Security replaces less than half of our pre-retirement income. Living on an average annual income of $38k isn’t easy. $3,000 a month certainly doesn’t leave room for many luxuries.

That’s one reason why we publish After 50 Finances. We want you to be prepared to live a full and fruitful life in your later years. If you don’t already subscribe, you can do that here.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of articles that will help as you head for retirement. Whether you’re just a few months or years away from retirement, planning is important. Failure to plan often leads to disappointment. Planning the 5 Years Prior to Retirement will help you prepare for the lifestyle you hope to have.

Part of that planning process is to make sure that you’ve covered the important items. Give Your Finances a Pre-Retirement Check-Up will help you determine whether your retirement plans are based in reality or need some mid-course correction.

Another key to a success is Avoiding Pre-Retirement Mistakes. Why make it harder on yourself?

Having a happy, comfortable retirement is a common goal. But it’s not likely to happen without a little planning and effort on your part.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary

A Look at Combating Rising Food Prices

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released some producer price statistics. Here’s part of what they reported.

“The Producer Price Index for final demand increased 0.7 percent in August, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Final demand prices moved up 1.0 percent in July, the same as in June. (See table A.) On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index rose 8.3 percent for the 12 months ended in August, the largest advance since 12-month data were first calculated in November 2010.”

“Prices for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services moved up 0.3 percent in August after increasing 0.9 percent in July. For the 12 months ended in August, the index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services rose 6.3 percent, the largest advance since 12-month data were first calculated in August 2014.” (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

It’s interesting that BLS breaks out ‘final demand less foods, energy and trade services’. For most families, the costs of food and energy (both gas for their cars and electricity for their homes) amounts to about 1/3 of their total expenses!

Fortunately, for most of us, we do have some options to try to save on food even when prices are going up. I thought that it might be good to highlight some of them.

Let’s start with the more general tools. Guidelines for Reducing the Grocery Budget is a great place to start. Especially if you’re new to trimming the grocery bill.

One tool that’s not commonly used is called ‘ugly food’. That’s food that’s perfectly nutritious but just doesn’t look so good. Join the Ugly Food Movement and Reduce Produce Costs will show you how to make your grocery bill look better than the produce you’re buying.

It’s a shame, but it’s estimated that approximately 1/3 of all the food produced in the U.S. is wasted. Much of that waste happens in our homes. Whether it’s from freezer burn, the veggies that turn to mush or the leftovers that become a chemistry experiment in our fridge, Food Storage Practices That Reduce Food Waste helps prevent throwing out dollars worth of spoiled food.

Another way to prevent food waste is to know what you already have on hand. See Keeping Track of Pantry Inventory Can Reduce Food Costs. It’s a simple tool that could pay big dividends for you.

Finally, here’s a tool that’s still popular in rural areas but could benefit anyone no matter where you live. Throughout the year various fruits and veggies are harvested. Just check your local farmers’ market. They’re at their cheapest right at the harvest. You can only eat some much at that time, but with a little effort you can buy enough to last for months. And for a fraction of what they’d cost later. Do you know How Much Can Preserving Foods Save You? You might be surprised.

Our friends at the BLS might want to exclude food when they calculate inflation. But you and I need to compensate for the extra 8% increase in prices over the last year. I’m glad that we can share some ways to accomplish that.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. You can read Gary's full bio here. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews.

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