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The Best Juicy Frugal Tips Starting with Coffee

Maybe it's because I live in Louisiana.  This part of the country drips with warm weather, great food and drink, and a constant stream o...

Monday, March 14, 2022

Side Hustle Remote Work - Tax Prep JH Tax School

Is Jackson Hewitt worth it?  During the last big scary stock dip (2008-2009), I took on a side hustle and became a tax-preparer by going to Jackson Hewitt Tax School.  They trained me and hired me.  The original post about that process is linked below.   If I can do it, so can you -- I'm a math-phobe from way back. The only cost I incurred was for the books ($99).  

If you are looking for a side hustle that is seasonal, this might work for you.  Not only do you help people, but you also earn extra cash, and keep up with all the latest in the tax code.  H&R Block also has a tax school and they also train and hire part-time tax preparers


The pay from the local Jackson-Hewitt Tax office in 2010 was only $7.50 an hour.  Remote work wasn't even contemplated, so I was in a retail office for a few hours every weekend, which was really unpleasant.  

After I completed one season of work, I didn't go back because I made more managing my taxes differently than I did actually preparing taxes by the hour for others.  The learning was invaluable.  If I had made more per hour and kept up the training, I probably would have switched to H&R Block.  

Now that so many returns are completed online, I can imagine the experience with either of these tax prep shops would be much better.  I never worked in a Wal-Mark kiosk for Jackson Hewitt, but always feel bad for those employees who do. 

Now if you like numbers and want to work remotely? There is enough training, support, and software at either of these companies to make it your while.  

If you have worked remotely to do tax preparation, please share your experience in the comments!  



Sunday, February 20, 2022

Should we worry about inflation? Not so much.

An Update on Financially Free - Can I Live on $3,000 per month Shows Us Why "No Worries"

One of the most-read posts on A Juicy Enough Life is about living on $3,000 per month.  The data is seven years old and could be considered a case study in why inflation isn't such a big deal.  

I had just retired early for the first time and was headed toward tiny house living.  It was seven years ago.  (Gulp). Even then I knew it would be tight and was a bit concerned about inflation.  

A reader recently asked for an update on this post and if things had changed.  Well, so much changed that the ups and downs could be considered a case study in "why plan at all???  LOL!  But primarily my net worth increased because of additional work and the increases in the stock market.  Expenses didn't increase all that much, because of diligent spending, LBYM, and a partnership.  

If you watch your spending closely and apply what you've learned about personal finance, odds are you don't have that much to worry about regarding inflation either.  Vicki Robbins mentions in "Your Money or Your Life," that conscious spending is the best hedge we have against inflation.  If the last seven years of my personal data prove anything,  she is 100% right. Jose Dominguez, her co-author, was fond of saying: 

Consciousness grows faster than inflation ... Once you are FI (financially independent), you'll have more time to learn.  More time to DIY.  More time to bond with others.  More time to find just what you need for a fraction of the cost.  

Here is my 2022 DIY hedge plan against inflation:  
  • Passively invested index stock funds (22% of my asset allocation).  I can avoid touching these for 10 years or more.
  • A social security start date well into the future.  Social security is the only cost-of-living-adjusted (COLA) asset I have at this time.   
  • Strike-point grocery shopping - buying in quantity when items are on sale.  (I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep up with good prices on 30 or so items we purchase a lot.  A can of black beans or spicy diced tomatoes at less than $1.00?  I'm stocking up!).  
  • Use grocery store apps to check prices and create my list before hitting the supermarket.
  
So What Changed in 7 Years?  

My net worth went up by 275% while my expenses only went up by 57% (and that includes fun money I didn't expect to spend). 

I went back to work for a few years at my dream job (LSU's internationally renowned nutrition research powerhouse Pennington Biomedical Research Center).  Never saw that offer coming and was thrilled to get it.  Their focus at the time was on nutrition research to reduce heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  It was a great four years and I would have done it for very little, but they paid me well.  I retired from that job last year.

1) Cash in the Bank went up by 275%

Even though I was making a good salary, I kept my lifestyle simple.  Even kept driving the same 2011 Honda Insight.  So I saved a lot.  The stock market did well.  I also had a small inheritance from my Mom's estate, which I'm now sharing with my daughter.  (Thank you, Mom and Dad!) 

  • Debt (non mortgage)
    • 2015 - $0
    • 2020 - $0
  • Assets
    • 2015 - Over $350,000 in retirement funds plus almost $80,000 in cash. 
    • 2022 - Over $750,000 in investable retirement funds plus $150,000 in cash. = $900,000. 

2)  Expenses up 57% including discretionary spending. 

They could have stayed the same if I hadn't eased the spending reins for fun money.

  • Monthly Overhead 
    • 2015 - $2,999 per month
    • 2022 - $5,250 per month

The increase in monthly overhead is discretionary and aspirational type expenses.  My basic needs can still be met at the $3,000 per month level.  And that includes my "must-haves:" 

    Housing
    Utilities
    Healthcare
    Personal care such as toiletries and clothing
    Auto and auto expenses
    Cell phone
    High-speed internet.  


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Detailed Monthly Spending

  • Housing - 25% higher
    • 2015 - $600 per month for 280 square feet.   
    • 2022 - $800 per month for half ownership in 1700 square foot home 
We share a smallish home - only 1,700 square feet, 1 bedroom, 1 study and 2 baths.   Costs are about the same except for the darn maintenance.  (boo hiss - so expensive!)
  • Medical, Dental, Vision, Long Term Care - 0% higher
    • 2015 - estimated I would spend $800 per month including a cobra policy. 
    • 2022 - about the same  (Medical is $560, Dental is $35, LTC is $170)
  • Utilities - 15% higher
    • 2015 - $229 per month
    • 2022 - $264 per month

I split some utilities with my partner, which helps. My share of energy and gas is $100 on average per month, $32.50 for water and sewer & garbage.   I pay $37.50 for my cell service and $94 for high-speed internet, my partner picks up cable television, I still don't watch it very much. 

  • Food & entertainment - 86% higher
    • 2015 -  $430 per month, which included eating out at restaurants
    • 2022 -  $800 per month, also including eating out at restaurants. 

This category definitely went up.  But I know I can cut back on eating out if I need to.  I also share some of that expense with my partner.  And I'm looking forward to dusting off the strike-point grocery pricing sheet to see how I can reduce the monthly cost.  
  • Transportation - 0% higher
    • 2015  - $450 per month
    • 2022  - $450 per month
This cost has stayed the same or gone down.  I'm still driving a 2011 Honda Insight which now has 127K miles.  The maintenance costs have been primarily oil changes and tires.  I got LUCKY with this car.  

My insurance per month is less because I don't drive to work anymore.  My fuel costs are less.  But I still save $200 per month for buying a new car next year and for maintenance costs.  

  • Gifts/charity/helping daughter with student loans - -64% (down)
    • 2015 - $250 per month
    • 2022 - $150 per month
My beautiful daughter is now married and handling her own student loans.  My giving is primarily through my Rotary Club membership and a few favorites like public radio, plus a few cash gifts throughout the year to my daughter and her new family.
  • Clothing - 
    • 2015 - $  65 per month
    • 2022 - $200 per month
Guilty of splurging here!  I have plenty from years of clothing purchases for corporate world job.  That's finished, but I'm now finding that my running shoes and outerwear needs were piling up. A destination wedding for a family member last year necessitated lots of new clothes and shoe purchases.  So I'm selling some of my better pieces on Poshmark at @isabettarose.  I'm also finding great deals there for branded, new with tags, fantastic clothes!  Won't ever need to buy new again! https://poshmark.com/closet/isabettarose
  • Personal supplies, grooming, etc.  - 33% higher
    • 2015 -  $75 per month
    • 2022 -  $100 per month 
Not much more in this category and it is flexible.  I learned during the pandemic that I just don't need to highlight my hair at $300 per 6 weeks!  

  • Household supplies - 0%
    • 2015 - $100 per month (Includes food and litter for cat, paper goods, cleaning) 
    • 2022 - $100 per month  (Includes paper goods, cleaning and home office supplies)

Very little growth in this as my kitty cat passed away and I haven't had the heart to adopt another one yet.  Also, cleaning supplies just don't cost that much more than they did.  

Following professional and/or obsessed housecleaners on Facebook and TikTok has saved me a fortune in cleaning supplies.   Following others' experiments with cleaning supplies and asking questions of the group members has been very helpful.

  • Taxes -- No change, still in the 22% tax bracket - boo!  (Single - No dependents) 


More Reasons Not to Worry
  • Your Personal CPI could be much lower than general CPI. 
    •  Here is a fairly simple  Personal Inflation Rate calculator based on your own expense estimates.  It's important because the calculator weights inflation on what your consumption habits.  If you don't purchase new cars, you probably don't care if new car prices are up, for example.  If you drive an electric car, are you concerned about diesel gas prices busting your budget?  NO.  

My personal inflation rate is around 2% -- which is right in line with my fixed income asset returns.  Whew!  I'm good!  

Check it out and let me know if it works for you!  
http://www.candaceshira.com/learning_center/calculators/personal_inflation_rate

What are you planning on doing or learning or testing to fight inflation costs in your household?  Please stop by the comments and share!  We would love to hear from you. 





Sunday, January 16, 2022

Ireland Trip 2022 – The Fruits of Frugality

Library in Trinity College, Dublin

Can you live below your means while spending more on what love? It is not only possible – it is the key to building wealth, financial freedom, and staying there.  

Why is it so important? Because we can never get enough of what doesn’t satisfy us.   But if we take the time to discern what does fill up our lives and our souls? Then binging on shopping and food and what other things we go looking for to stuff inside our houses or our bodies – well, it just doesn’t happen.  The craving for more is gone.  We don’t even want it.  Finding our spending satisfaction is one of the most important skills we can learn.

Today’s post is about one of my satisfiers -- spending wisely on travel with friends.  It might be yours too?  When I see new cultures, meet new people, visit far-flung family, create new memories with travel buddies, I’m happier and richer inside and out. 

Is Travel Your Jam?  Let’s Talk about How You Can Make the Trip of Your Dreams Happen

I am flying to Ireland with a friend to see a band play in concert.  Yep.  A bucket list event! A different friend inspired me when she described her travels to see a particular band several times a year.  Her face and life seemed to come alive.  The daily grind fell off her shoulders and her smile caught me in the enthusiasm.  So, I bought two floor tickets to see Simply Red in Dublin, Ireland January 31st, (assuming COVID-19 doesn’t shut us down). 

And I’m a lot like you.  I’ve hit my number, but I’m living a middle-class lifestyle.  There isn’t enough money for a Lamborghini in the driveway.  I can only afford to do this because of all my frugalista smart habits.  You can do it too!  

Spend wildly on things you love while being super frugal on the things you don’t care about, is something even Mr. Money Guru Ramit Sethi writes about in his book “I Will Teach You to Be Rich.”

Below is a template you can use if a trip is in your dreams.  I’m spending what I saved to go – about $3,000.  

Since I splurged in so many cases, I added at least five ways on how you could do so much better by trying a few different approaches.

 

Essential Purchase

Essential Purchase

Splurges

Total

Notes

Estimated Sat Score

 

Airline Ticket Round Trip (United Mon-Mon)

$749.95

Economy Seating Bundle $78

$827.95

Includes extra legroom and 1 free checked bag

5 of 10

 

It’s a long flight

Hotel, Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice 4/5 stars

$1,649

The hotel is adjacent to the show, so no taxi, no walking the city streets at night. 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor

$1,649

$275 per night for 2 adults

 

 

Breakfast is included

 

8 of 10

Transfers from Airport to Hotel

$180

 

$180

 

100% splurge, we just didn’t want to worry about using public transport, missing our plane.

10 of 10

Tickets to Simply Red Concert

 

$78

Floor Seats, Row K, Seat 45

$78

Floor seats!  Row K! 

10 of 10

Pub Crawls and tours

 

$81


$81

These could be great, or a bust

5 of 10

Euros for meals and tips

$368


$368

 

Exchange rates are not good between Euros & Dollars

3 of 10

TOTAL

 


 $3,183

 

 

7 days, 6 nights

 



 

 

 

 

How You Can Go and Spend Even Less

  1. You could save a lot more by booking a different hotel using hotels.com or the like and splitting the cost with a roommate.  I went through a travel agent because I wanted help during the time of travel with COVID-19.  Otherwise, I could have saved about $500 by booking the Spencer hotel, a bit further away and just as nice. And even more splitting the cost with my friend. 
  2. You could do even better using your Marriott Bonvoy Chase Rewards card and booking through that site. I pay $95 per year to use this card, but it gives me credit for at least one hotel room stay each year and I rack up points using it on other spending. 
    1. Example:  This adorable Marriott boutique in Dublin called The Moxy is only 100-150 Euros per night, half the cost of the Gibson.   The Moxy hotel only costs 20,000 points per night for a twin room (2 beds) or 107 Euros, as of January 15, 2022.
  3. You could also do better by booking your own personal transfers from hotel using Viator.  They have great deals for larger groups using vans, for example.  Even Uber might be less expensive than our personal transport.  Again, I booked through the travel agent because I wanted an iron-clad reservation.  Our trip home requires a 5:30 a.m. pickup from the hotel and I just don’t want to worry about taxis not running that early in the morning.
  4. You could also do better on the airline fees if you use your frequent flyer miles, which I did for my first trip to Europe.  It saved me $3,500 when I flew into Belgium and trained down to Italy for a week on my very first trip. I have both American Express Delta SkyMiles and now a United frequent flyer account.  
  5. You can also exchange Marriott Bonvoy card points for points on American Express to purchase Delta airline tickets.  My go-to airlines are Delta and United, no cancellations, nothing extreme, no weird seating situations.  I hear from those who love Southwest Airlines, but I’ll stick to tried and true for airline ticket purchases.
  6. You could also better with flights using American Airlines.  They had cheaper rates to Europe, but I’m not a fan of their cancellation policies, so I paid more for United.


Wrapping up – I saved for this trip for approximately one year, just $200 or so each month.  So, everything is already paid for except meals.

Have you done some travel hacking lately that you’d like to share?  Please let us know in the comments! 


 


 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Best Juicy Frugal Tips Starting with Coffee

Maybe it's because I live in Louisiana.  This part of the country drips with warm weather, great food and drink, and a constant stream of live music. 

And we share some of the same European "squeeze the juice out of every moment" daily lifestyle habits.  Coffee cup and coffee pressLike the love of coffee.  It's a $4-6 per day habit in my house, even when I make most of it at home. 
Some say cut it out of your budget, it's a waste.   I say that's ridiculous.   In fact,  I propose that you cut something else out of the budget just to keep coffee in! 

Why?  

1) It's good for your health (and this is from the people and research at Harvard, mon ami). 
2)  It's one of the best inexpensive ways to add a frugal juiciness to every day of your life.   

The Belgians love coffee so much that they serve chocolate with every cup -- free of charge.   If you want to immerse yourself in the Belgian way, check out this blogger's post  about the Belgian café society.     "Drinking good coffee is a spiritual experience..."    Just reading the post made me happy! 

Other ways to enhance your daily coffee: 

1)  Using a French press when you have time.  This is a photo of mine.  Nope, I don't make any money from Mr. Coffee recommending this French press!  I started with a Bodum, but I like my Mr. Coffee better.    Here is a nice visual tutorial if you are interested. 

2)  Use your best coffee cups.  Enjoy the ceramic or china in your life.  The coffee cup in my photo is pure bone china featuring tiny flowers and berries.  

coffee service at the bar at Luke's Restaurant in New Orleans.  Cafe AuLait
Coffee at Luke's
3) Sometimes Tuesday Morning has a deal on European coffees pre-ground that are around $6.00 for 12 ounces.  Trader Joe's coffee is also about .50 per pound.  Community Coffee, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is one of my favorites, of course. 

4) And you can order coffee instead of alcohol at any of the bars.  Pictured below is a service at the bar within Luke's on St. Charles Avenue in the downtown area of New Orleans.  The casual brassier dining pub has some of the best coffee service.  An inexpensive and somewhat sober way to really enjoy the city.  

How do you take your coffee? Cafe Au Lait?  Or just  black?