December to Remember: What Can I Get You? [210/365]

BartendingIf you needed a Long Island Iced Tea, a Zombie, a Woo-Woo, you name it I made it.  Many of my friends were shocked and didn’t believe me, but I tended a bar for four months (Thursday – Sunday nights) at The Mirage nightclub in Southeast Washington, D.C.  Yes, THE Mirage.  Yes, in “Soufeas” in the mid-90s. It was an adventure.  I met a cast of characters, I had my regulars and I made some great tips.  I was still working my noon to 8pm shift at the TV station Monday through Fridays.  When I would take my tips over to the bank across the street from the station, located in a more affluent area of Northwest Washington, D.C., there were times the teller would give me the side-eye.  Not that it was any of their business but I assured them all of those singles were from mixing drinks.  Good grief!

*Oh snap! A photo a day for 365 days. My 365Project – A daily digital diary.*

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Real Simple Tips: 11 Ways to Save On Groceries

I am always looking for tricks to save some coin.  Real Simple always provides great tips, so let’s head to the market:

  1. Pick products on the top and bottom shelves.  Bigger sizes of items, which tend to offer a lower price per unit, are usually placed on the highest and lowest shelves.  Smaller sizes, with a higher price per unit, are often given prime placement at eye level.
  2. Purchase oranges, onions, and potatoes in bags rather than individually.  You’ll pay roughly half the price.
  3. Buy store brands instead of name brands.  Store brands are usually close to the market leader in quality yet less costly.  In fact, the same manufacturer that makes the branded product often manufactures the house brand.
  4. Buy ground beef and chicken breasts in bulk or family sized packages and you’ll save big: 20 percent on ground beef and 50 percent on chicken.
  5. Opt for frozen seafood over fresh.  Vacuum-packaged salmon, flounder, tilapia fillets and bags of frozen shrimp cost 20 to 40 percent less than their counterparts at the fish counter.
  6. Avoid buying prepared and packaged goods.  You’ll pay a premium for convenience.  Consumer Reports once found that two pounds of carrots cost $1.29, compared with $7.16 for the same amount of precut sticks.
  7. Don’t buy non-grocery items at the supermarket.  Health and beauty goods are usually cheaper at mass-market retailers like Target.  And you’ll find the best deals on paper products at warehouse clubs.
  8. Find out an item’s cost per unit (CPU). It’s listed on the shelf sticker next to the price. It will tell you what an item’s cost per pound or ounce is, which can keep you from getting hoodwinked by packaging.
  9. Join grocery savings clubs at local supermarkets.  These free programs entitle cardholders to members-only savings on selected products, a benefit that could shave about 18 percent off your total grocery bill.
  10. Download coupons.  Check couponcart.com or coolsavings.com for deals on frequently purchased items and shop on double-coupon days if your grocer has them.
  11. Join a warehouse club.  Bulk retailers, such as BJ’s Wholesale Club and Costco, can be 20 to 50 percent cheaper than regular grocery stores when it comes to products like condiments, coffee, bottled water, and canned beans and vegetables.  Visit the websites of clubs like BJ’s ($45 annual fee), Costco ($50 annual fee) and Sam’s Club ($40 annual fee) to determine which has the best location and product mix for you and join online.

Retirement Planning

This isn’t a post about 401Ks or IRAs.  This isn’t a post about creating a bucket list for what you want to do when you retire from your 40-year-old career or j-o-b.  This is a post about planning for your final resting place; planning for retiring from this life.

This topic has been thrust into my universe because I am the Power of Attorney for my soon-to-be 75-year-old mother who’s been living with severe dementia the past 7 years.  The private care costs are months away from draining my mother’s accounts and I have to begin the application process for Medicaid.  In order to do this I have to spend down all of her assets and finances to meet Medicaid requirements.  I was given sound advice from a Medicaid specialist at one of the nursing facilities I visited yesterday that I wasn’t prepared to face.  She said:

Are you planning a burial or cremation?  And how do you plan to pay for the funeral?

These questions are not ones we want to focus on when loved ones are not showing signs of being called Home.  My mother’s mind is weak but her body is still strong.  But these questions are necessary for me to focus on in order for me to get financing set aside before I spend all the money down.  I was told I needed to set up an irrevocable burial account.  This type of account funds the funeral costs and cannot be claimed as an asset in the eyes of the government.  I couldn’t thank the Medicaid specialist enough for alerting me of this necessary step. It is now one more thing to add to my To-Do-List:

  1. Get all of mommy’s paperwork in order
  2. Search Medicaid facilities
  3. Visit those researched Medicaid facilities
  4. Contact funeral home to discuss pre-funeral arrangements and set up irrevocable burial account
  5. Fill out and submit Medicaid application
  6. Pack up mommy’s belongings and paperwork at current assisted living facility
  7. Move her to new Medicaid facility
  8. Spend the following weeks getting mommy adjusted to new environment, staff and residents
  9. Spend the following weeks getting myself adjusted to new environment, staff and residents
  10. Breathe

The Medicaid specialist told me not everyone in her line of work is willing to share the pre-funeral planning information with family members.  I believed her since this was the first time I had ever heard about it after speaking to several administrators at various facilities.  I suppose people just assume family members will pool their resources when the time comes because it’s normal for folks to just have an excess of $5,000 – $10,000 just lying around for a “rainy day.”  This irrevocable burial account will relieve my family from a financial burden and provide peace of mind during what will be our greatest time of grieving.

Have you thought about your retirement plans?