At the end of each week, I like to ask myself a few questions (The What’s?) on how my week went. I think asking myself (or yourself) a series of inquiring questions, helps keep me (or you) focused and appreciative. It certainly helps me see exactly how I am doing, where I am going and if I am achieving anything in my life!

  1. What’s doing in the garden? The growing season here in upstate New York is slowly coming to an end. In about a week or so, night time temps are going to go down to the high 30s. That’s not good. I still have around 15 plum tomatoes although big, they still have not ripened on the vine. I’m going to give them the week and then the day before the temps drop I will pick them and store them in a cardboard box. I heard they will ripen that way. I also have 4-5 eggplants that still need to be picked and 2 or 3 green peppers. I will wait till the temps change, pick whatever I can and then call it a mighty fine first growing season. I cleared out all the zinnias that surrounded the apple tree. The last of the herbs need to be picked, washed, dried and stored in the freezer.

2. What’s cooking? Apples are finally in season. So hubs and I made a visit to a local farm, bought a bag and made my infamous apple crumb pie. Don’t ask me for the recipe. I’ve been making this pie since like forever and I have no idea what measurements to tell you or how to get it all together. I like to make an open apple crumb pie, using old fashioned oats, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger as a topping. This way the pie qualifies for breakfast!

3. What’s happening? (socially) Other than any social interaction I do through the internet with my family and friends, I haven’t socialized still with another physical human being other than my husband and my dog. I don’t know if this is good or bad. Either way, I don’t think it bothers me much. I find my peace and contentment minding my own business and sticking to myself.

4. What’s streaming? Amazon is still releasing very old movies, that I haven’t seen in years. I’ve been watching Wuthering Heights, starring Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon. The movie came out in 1939 and it still is the best rendition of the love angst between Cathy and Heathcliff . I’ve also been watching free movies starring Kirk Douglas, Angie Dickerson, Frank Sinatra and Lana Turner. I feel like a kid again watching these oldies. I love them!

5. What music is playing? Right now, I am listening to classical favorites by Beethoven, Bach, Debussy etc. I have been playing an album entitled ‘One Hit Wonders‘ of famous bands/singers that came out with only one hit BUT made a fortune over it. Such artists as Norwegian band, A-Ha and their one hit wonder here in the United States, ‘Take On Me‘. The song was unique AND it was accompanied by a fantastic video (remember MTV used to play rock videos all. day. long?)

6. What are you most grateful for? The more I hear about the terrible weather calamities throughout the world, fires in California, Oregon and Washington, along side earthquakes, massive flooding, hurricanes hitting the pan handle and other disasters, I am more and more grateful I live in upstate New York, where other than a season winter blizzard or two (totally manageable) nothing really goes on up here! Who’d a thunk?

7. What did you do this week to stretch a dollar? September here is school taxes due month. February is when property taxes are due. After living here almost 20 years, I think I have the payment schedule down pat. One thing any homeowner NEVER wants to do is NOT pay your home taxes or even pay them late! Fail to pay your taxes and you might just lose your home to an auction sale. I want to tell every homeowner out there to be super, super careful. Most states are money struggling now and they’d love, love, love to seize your property and sell it! So, please be extra vigilant. I usually get my September bill by the first week. This year, I didn’t. I was starting to worry by the 10th. I called the tax office but because of Covid-19 there is no one in any office. I was able to get in touch with our town secretary and he gave me an online address to go to and I was able to download my tax bill. It was September 12th and if I were to utilize the town payment plan, my first payment was due to be postmarked by the 15th! I was furious. Thankfully, I may be an older home owner but I’m able to pay my tax bill in full, which full payments are due to be postmarked by October 1st. So, I was lucky/fortunate….but what about other older home owners? Suppose they could only afford the payment plan? Now, they’d owe late fees! Plus an additional $160 when you utilize the payment plan. This is not good for older people on strict fixed incomes.

The other problem with our school and property taxes is that our town decided two years ago to tax homes in 2020 at 100% of property appraised value vs the lower assessed values. This is how our town and I am sure many, many others get around the percentage cap law governing property tax increases. Wise guys. PLUS I live in New York which has the highest tax rates in the country. The only way I can afford to pay my taxes is that I qualify for a senior citizen discount, as I am over the age of 65 and hubby and I are in a low tax bracket. Which BTW, the governor keeps lowering so that may soon come to an end.

When I got this years school tax bill (which also BTW, the school won’t be opening anytime soon) now with the 100% appraised value, my property taxes went from $1114.72 a year to a whopping $3746.14!!!! Thankfully, my senior discount brought it down to $2418.14 but nonetheless, my property school taxes more than doubled!!!! How does any senior citizen, on a fixed income pay this increase? My monthly budget went from $170.50 to $279.17, a $109 monthly budget increase. And, I will find out in February how much more my property taxes have increased, so my monthly budget expense will be higher also. (I save this amount every month so I can pay my property taxes in full, thus saving the $160 payment plan fee). What can I cut out of my fixed income to come up with the additional $109+ per month?

I am fortunate to at least have a savings account, so I was able to pay the whole $2418.14 amount long before its due date. But what about other older home owners who aren’t as lucky or fortunate as I am? I still haven’t gotten my bill! I am also lucky and fortunate that I know my way around the internet. It took a while but I was finally able to download my tax bill. Can other older homeowners do the same? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I don’t think this was an accident. I think it was done on purpose. You know me. I don’t trust or believe anyone or anything.

My advice to anyone who is still reading this, understand your rights and when bills are due making sure you pay on time. If you can, which I will be doing, is sign up for 3rd party notification. I’m signing up my daughters to be notified should any of my bills fall behind or if, God forbid, I forget to pay any of my most important bills.

In the interim, since hubby and I live very close to the bone, there isn’t much we can cut out of our budget to come up with the extra tax monies due. The only thing we can do is lower our monthly savings rate and transfer that amount over into our property tax category to prepare to pay the upcoming increases, in full, when they are due. The only money I saved this month is the $160 payment plan fee.