I learned my big time financial lesson back in 2001. When the stock market crashed in 2000-2001, due to the dot com disaster, to say I got caught with my undies down would be an understatement. No one was buying computers and my business at that time was selling computers. Within a month or two I was out of business and found myself heavily in debt. It took a while but I managed to get myself out of the self-imposed mess I found myself in. I had a revelation and a resolution. The revelation was my debt was really a wake-up call letting me know my life was a ‘rented’ life. Technically, I owned nothing. The banks did. The resolution was that I told myself ‘Never Again!’

Thankfully, I had enough equity left in my house that I was able to sell and start all over again. This time I was mortgage and debt free. No car loans. No revolving credit lines. My lifestyle had drastically changed but I was in a much better place than before. When the 2008 Housing Crisis came around, I didn’t even know it existed. Because I was totally debt free, neither my husband or I felt any deprivation or financial pangs. Fast forward to today and even with the outrageous high inflation rates, we’re still doing fine. Being mortgage and debt free is the solution. Once you attain that, the rest, as they say, is history.

We got our electric bill this month. People around the globe are shrinking in fear as they open up their new monthly bill. Can you imagine my surprise when our July 2022 bill is 40% LOWER than our July 2021 bill? Apparently, the choices we made and the decisions we made to get our electric costs down are working. Despite the rising costs per kWh, we lowered our bill. Last July we used 633 kWh at a monthly cost of $114.08. This July we used 284 kWh at a cost of $69.04. That’s a 40% reduction! Simply by putting in two ECO air conditioners and setting the interior temperature to 75F, line drying (using the dryer as little as possible), LED nightlights vs lamps, using a gas BBQ instead of our electric oven, quick cool 5 minute showers (my baths are limited to 1X per week) and just being conscious of our usage (i.e. shutting the lights, watching TV together).

We switched our vehicle insurance, same coverage, but with a different carrier, Hartford Insurance Co, to take advantage of the AARP membership discount (from $2700 to $2006 annually) That is a yearly savings of $694. We also switched our mobile carrier to another company recommended by AARP, Consumer Cellular for an annual savings of $900 (from $113 to $38 a month) All for a $12-a-year AARP membership (which I highly recommend!).

Over the years I’ve learned to be mindful of my spending. I’ve learned to be alert and determined to always (at least try) purchase items at the best possible price. For example, we used to own two sets of bed sheets. A few weeks ago, one of the sheet sets ripped from excessive wear and tear. Literally. I knew I needed to buy another queen-sized sheet set but I also knew that what I really wanted/needed was a flannel sheet set to keep us a bit warmer in the winter. The set we’re using now is super thin but perfect for summer use. I found this 100% cotton flannel sheet set from WalMart for $39.66 but after they were delivered, I changed my mind. I really have never purchased a sheet set over $20 and once the sales tax was added in, I couldn’t justify the $42.88 cost, so I requested a return and a refund. When I clicked on the sheet set I instantly noted the set price had been reduced to $25.34. A quick virtual visit on the WalMart chat line and I convinced the sales rep that if they matched the lower price and refunded me back the $14.32 difference, I would cancel the return and keep the flannel sheets. WalMart complied.

Since my husband and I are doing more cooking at home, I wanted to replenish my cook/bakeware. I often go to the Goodwill back racks to get good deals on kitchenware. This past visit I scored big time. I was able to buy 3 Corning bakeware pieces (plus one glass top), in excellent condition for a total of $23.50 (2 items were 40% off!!). If I had purchased these same pieces retail, the total cost would have come to $130.42. I’m super excited I got a great, deep dish, casserole-type bakeware that is just perfect for roasting a whole chicken, completely surrounded with vegetables.

Lastly, I have been an avid follower of Amy Dacyczyn, the American Queen of all Frugality. I used to have her books but somewhere along my frugal journey, they got misplaced. So, I used to rent out her books from my local library. Unfortunately, due to their high demand, I could only keep Amy’s books for two weeks and then I had to return them. It never occurred to me to buy the books because #1 the price was high and #2 I could still get her books for free from the library. Thankfully, one of my readers suggested looking on eBay and lo and behold a Goodwill seller had listed the trilogy book for only $11.67. Even if I were to purchase a used copy from WalMart, the book retails for $35.99 (this is why I always borrowed the book from the library because the purchase price was too high). When the book arrived, not only was it in excellent condition but it was also a hardcover copy! Not a paperback! Ka-ching! A savings of $24.32! Score! (Image: my book is on the left. WalMart ad is on the right) Thank you, Chris!!!

I’m not worried about the economy. I’m not worried about the recession. I’m not even worried if we go into another deep depression. I learned my lessons very well. The secret is to be debt free and mindful of how you spend your money. Every single thing you buy has to be at a reduced cost. It’s the only way to keep affording what you need and keep your savings intact. At least, that is how it has worked out for me and my husband. It’s true that what works for us may not work for you. Truthfully, however, I just don’t see another way. Live and learn.

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