Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Money and Eating Peanut Butter Sandwiches


Reading my blog, people might get the impression that I’ve never had to worry much about paying my bills. With the exception of a few months in my early thirties when I was on crutches and couldn’t work and a few months after my husband's stroke when we had major cash flow issues, that’s essentially true. But both my husband and I worked a lot---had two or three jobs/careers/businesses each most of our adult lives. He was raised on a farm with parents who went though hard times and learned early on never to turn down work if you knew how to do it and he could do a lot of things. He was a tool and die maker by trade, but in the Army Reserves he learned how to drive and maintain heavy equipment which he loved doing, thus he came to own a parking lot maintenance company on the side, making more money with that than he did with his GM job of 35 years. And while I never made much money by comparison I never had expensive tastes or spent above what was coming in.

Following Don’s street sweeper, frontend loaders and snowplows around town with my yellow flasher going was part of my life for decades, and so was helping to fill pot holes and lay down yellow lines and---the biggie---I plowed snow for 17 years. Thankfully, after three years of asphalt patching he dropped that aspect of the business. That’s an awful job, so when you see a crew out working in the streets have pity on them. The heat coming off that asphalt makes you punchy, not to mention it sticks like snot on everything you’re wearing and you have to throw out clothes faster than you can buy them at Goodwill. 

Don tried to get me to learn how to run a frontend loader but I put my foot down and refused to do it, but another woman on our crew was more than willing to learn. It was a match made in bragging rights heaven. She was the first woman in town to do that kind of work and she needed the self-confidence it gave her. He loved shocking all the guys he came in contact with the fact that half his snowplow crew were women. Back in the ‘80s that was a big deal in a male dominated field. Don claimed women were better because we followed instructions and the guys he hired wanted to do things their own way. And, Ohmygod, it was true! The stories I could tell about pissing contests....

Anyway, because I’ve never really had to worry about paying my bills and still having money left over to eat and play, I’ve become obsessed with making as much as I can during my downsizing because I’m worried once I move and my expenses increase---that continuum care place I’m moving to is not cheap---I’ll end up eating peanut butter sandwiches the last week in every month. I’ll need to be on a budget for the first time ever. I take solace in the fact that many of my frugal living blogger friends seem to find budgets and bargain shopping to be a fun challenge rather than a blood sport. And I'm wrapping my head around the fact that there's a difference between being fugal and being cheap. I don’t want to become a person who steals sugar packets from restaurants and toilet paper from gas stations. I dated a guy who did those things before Don came along and I couldn’t stand his cheapness. He was living frugal but on other people’s money. Waitresses for example never got tipped no matter how good the service. Most of us work hard to get ahead and it isn’t right to justify stealing goods or services like he did. That’s not to say I’ve never stolen anything; when I was 12-13 years old I stole a small, ten cents cross from a dime store and I still have it. It’s made out of a clam shell and it stares up at me from my jewelry box, reminding me that a little humility is not a bad thing. We are all imperfect human beings. 

Back to making money as I downsize. Sometimes time is more valuable than money. I had a lot of stock left over from when we had booths in antique malls and were vendors at gas & oil memorabilia collector’s swap meets and shows. Gas stations, during their heydays of trying to market their way to the top of the heap put out a lot of freebies like mirrors, combs, match books, note pads, car window hooks, coin and toothpick holders, poker chips, charms, key chains, ink pens, tokens, games, calendars, thermometers, sewing and first aid kits, maps, etc. etc. We’re talking the ‘30s through the ‘50s, before the drinking glasses most of us remember from our childhoods came along. That’s the kinds of things I’m currently e-Baying. If I had all the time in the world, I could e-Bay my heart out but I can actually see the end of my old gas & old stock and the end is looking good to me. So I’ve started selling stuff in groups of 20 to 50 and I'm giving the swap meet vendors some fun bidding wars. I picked out the stuff that goes for over $50 a whack to sell individually, but stuff under that are going in what is known as junk drawer lots. The most I’ve gotten for a junk drawer lot is $148 but that translates into eating less peanut butter sandwiches at the end of the month. Hey, wait a minute! Sometimes I actually like having peanut butter for dinner, especially when I fry the sandwich and it includes banana slices and bacon. ©

36 comments:

  1. Hi Jean - Just started reading your blog - am reading old posts too - I am enjoying it - I can relate to a lot of your feelings - My husband and I are in our 70's (73 & 76) and have no children - we still live in our home and hope to do so (with hired help in the future) for several more years - my Mom is 96 and lived alone in her home until she was 91 - but she had a lot of daily help - She now lives in a CCC community - but is too old to really enjoy all their amenities and making new friends at that age is difficult (at least for her - people are really nice but she isn't very interested in developing new friends) I think if she would have gone in younger she would have formed her own circle of friends and been more active. You seem to be really organized and make be realize how much work downsizing really is. I've started and gotten rid of a lot of things but I think it could take me years to get where you are. I don't have a big attachment to things - but my husband is another story - so I have to sneak things out - he doesn't notice things are gone - so no harm done. The best of luck to you..(By the way I love peanut butter sandwiches with bananas) Enjoy your blog and enjoy reading about Levi (My fur baby is a rescue dog named Buddy he is 13 and the love of our lives) Take care - Mary Ellen

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    1. Welcome Mary Ellen! Thanks for the introduction. Your mother's situation with the CCC community is the exact point I've heard from people "in the business"...that people wait too long to go to them. I know a couple of ladies who made the jump last year and they are super happy they did. These places now days have so many activities going on, they liken them to cruise ships. Hopefully, it will work that way for me.

      When my husband was alive I snuck something out of the house just once and got caught. Learned never to do that again. LOL My husband had a memory like an elephant.

      Aren't fur babies great!

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  2. You're incredibly sensible; I don't see a lot of struggling and peanut butter necessity in your future. You're probably the most pragmatic person I've ever come to know.

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    1. Thank you! I love that label...pragmatic, probably only thing I've ever had in common with Hillary Clinton.

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    1. No one would have said that during my caregiving days. LOL We all have our ups and downs through life. I hope your back is better today.

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  4. I just love your writing style! Congrats on your downsizing progress and your determination to make money as you go.

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    1. That means a lot coming from a fellow blogger who knows how hard it can be to come up with blog fodder.

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  5. I dont get the peanut butter fear, but then I adore pb and J sanwiches as well as old fashioned grilled cheese. I remember when Tamara was still blogging and somehow she mentioned the sandwiches along the way and some young slug said" If you have to eat peanut butter sandwiches in retirement...". I don't remember is exact words but they were something like "dude, new RV, wine,gourmet restaurant and so on and so forth and you honed in on the sandwiches???".

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    1. For me, it would be the sameness of having to eat the same thing every day for a week that I fear more than the P&J. I'd say the same thing about cereal and milk every day at the end of the month.

      My number one comfort food is a grilled cheese sandwich and I'll actually order it in a restaurant from time to time. Had a peanut butter sandwich in a restaurant once, too, called the Elvis and it had so much stuff on it it wasn't funny including honey but not enough peanut butter for my tastes.

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  6. You have worked hard and planned well. You should have no fear of PB sandwiches though that fried one with bananas and bacon sounds amazing.

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    1. If I do have to eat a lot of peanut butter then I will become the peanut butter queen of the hall, paring it with weird stuff in the cupboard. LOL

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  7. I doubt that you will need it, but I'm sure there are a lot of other low-cost, tasty meals one can eat.

    I think you're smart to consider the time vs. money trade-off. Good luck in making a bundle!

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    1. I agree. I'm not a fussy eater and I already eat a lot of stouffer's. Cheap and not bad tasting.

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  8. Just think how much time you're going to have once you've turned all that "stock" into money! You'll be able to afford jelly to go with the peanut butter, and have time to enjoy it at leisure!

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    1. I know! Having so many things like "stock" and other stuff that I should have dealt with a long time ago has the power to make me feel guilty whenever I do enjoyable hobbies like painting or sewing. I used to make the best mint jelly. I could even get my own garden block at the new place and raise mint again. LOL I Just kidding but I might try my hand at raising something.

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  9. Never tried bacon in my PB sandwich, just jelly or banana. I don't get to eat it much any more because of my diabetes, but I do have one now and then as a special treat. Even if it is inexpensive, it is heavenly and I'd eat it much more often if I could but then I'm a sandwich kind of girl.

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    1. I've had peanut butter sandwiches with honey, with a fried egg, with pineapple chunks. I can't say I liked the fried egg but I love a fried egg sandwich with lettuce. The most clever P&J I've seen was one using a hot dog bun with a whole banana laying in peanut butter with jelly topping the banana. Lots of variations on the internet.

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  10. Never had peanut butter and banana and the additional bacon sounds wonderful! This time of year, I eat lots of tomato sandwiches - sliced tomato on toast spread with mayo. I've had the same sandwich substituted with a mini cucumber. So simple for the hot summer days when you don't feel like cooking.

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    1. I've never had a tomato sandwich but I love tomato, lettuce and bacon sandwiches. Tomatoes with cottage cheese is one of my go-to lunches and I'm having that for lunch today. I like tomatoes more than apples. Apples are good on peanut butter sandwiches, too.

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  11. I'm experiencing some of the same concerns as I contemplate retiring and moving across the country. In my head, I've done the math (and also had my financial planners do the math for me) and I know I'll be OK. I also know I am resilient and resourceful and adaptable and can make just about any scenario work, if I have to. I've had to make a dollar stretch very thin to keep the wolf from the door for many years ,and can go back to that again. We got this, Jean!

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    1. Retiring is such a scary thing! My husband took several years to decide to quit GM but once he did, he never looked back.

      The math works for me too, but once I move I'll no longer have an opportunity to make money and I've discovered that back up plan was in the back of my head all along and I didn't know it. I'd e-Bay here and there to pay my taxes for example. I know you're right thought. We've got this! We've done our homework.

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  12. True confession: I eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch almost every day; they're one of my favorite foods. (But these are high class pbj; I make my own peanut butter from unsalted roasted peanuts and bake my own bread. LOL)
    Here's a different way to think about budgeting: I find having a budget gives me permission to spend. Even when I was at my poorest (in grad school, living on a $4000 a year stipend), I always included a budget item for having fun, even if it was just a take-out pizza and a matinee movie once a month. Just start out identifying how much you can afford to spend in a month, subtract the non-negotiable expenses (e.g.,those monthly CCC fees) and then figure out how you want to divide up what's left. Some people would think it crazy to eat PBJ every day and then spend hundreds of dollars a month on gardening, but it works for me and my priorities.

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    1. I don't think I've ever had homemade peanut butter but I'll bet it's good enough to eat every day. I know for a fact homemade bread is. I used to make it often too. Now I'm more in to making scones because they freeze better than bread.

      I like your concept of budgets giving you permission to spend. I get that. I also get your priorities. Art books always trump new clothing at my house. Books in general I need to quit buying and learn to like using the library.

      I never use credit and think I subconsciously budget in my head rather than put it down on paper like a lot of people do. Although after writing this blog I remembered back in my early twenties have a budgeting book with envelopes where you put cash for various things. My mom used one of those for years.

      I just looked up recipes for homemade peanut butter and I'd have to buy a food processor first. If my blender goes bad---I make morning protein shakes---homemade peanut butter is one more reason to replace it with a food processor.

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  13. Hey--trying to live on a budget that is at least $50.00 short every month is like an adventure!!! LOL

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    1. There's always that greeter job at Walmart's...that would be my back up plan or pet sitting. LOL

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  14. I used to eat peanut butter and bacon sandwiches on whole wheat toast, yum, maybe I will have one soon. It sounds like you have found a good place to live and to age.

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    1. I wrote about peanut butter so much this week that when I was at the grocery store today I bought cupcakes with peanut butter cream filling and frosting. Also bought some lettuce to go with my bacon and tomatoes, thanks to the power of suggestion in the blogs.

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  15. What an Interesting History your Careers spanned! I too reflected Today upon most of my 'problems' being First World Ones really, with a few exceptions that were drastic in Younger Years. I agree about Frugal versus Cheap, I can't stand Cheap behavior, it's insulting and even embarrassing if you're with someone whose habit of being Cheap is reflective of the group, even if the rest of you aren't Cheapskates! Any time I've dined with someone who was so Cheap they wouldn't tip, I always felt obligated to make up the difference and NEVER dine with that individual again. We used to eat Ketchup and Cheese Sammies when Poor... among other crazy combos to stretch a Buck.

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    1. It is embarrassing to dine with a cheapskate! And this guy had a good job! I think it's common for others at the table to make up the difference when someone is shortchanging the waitress. You learn a lot about people when you eat out with them, don't you.

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  16. Just came across your blog... and have begun reading from Day One... and signed up to follow. Need to say here that I love peanut butter - peanut butter and jelly, Pb and banana, Pb and apple,etc.I also love BLT’s and Tomato and cheese sandwiches! Retirement does require some budgeting... and we too are trying to remain in our home as long as possible.

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    1. Welcome to my blog! I'll check out yours later today when I have more time.

      Decisions, decisions...they are no easier in retirement than they are when we're young only when I was young I had fewer choices.

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  17. A silent hello from Braunschweig, Germany.
    I never ever had peanut butter (I don´t have a sweet tooth, mostly), but you can buy it here "these days".
    My late Grandma made "Poor Knights", maybe as sweet?
    I am lucky, mostly we don´t have too much snow.
    That is one big difference, I think - you can work. You can do it, do! Show, prove, make it happen.
    Here... you have no idea. But if you have a "certificate" you get the job.
    You know how to do it but lack the certificate... just go home.
    Maybe we should move? ;-)

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    1. Welcome!

      I've never thought of peanut butter as being sweet but I just checked the label and sugar is listed. I learn something every day. Your 'Poor Knights' look like what we call French Toast and that is sweet the way we fix it here with lots of syrup or fruit and whipped cream on top.

      We have many careers/occupations where a certificate is required to prove you were educated in the field. But we have lots and lots of opportunities to start our own businesses.

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  18. You're lucky you have really good things that are of great interest to collectors. I have some nice stuff but it won't make a heck of a lot in the after-market, to be sure. I think about that too because, well, you never know what will happen and if you end up being 90 and poor, it won't be fun!

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    1. The collectibles market is really weird. Whatever is on the covers of up-cycling magazines is hot but only for a couple of years. Dishes and glassware is so low you can't give it away. I had some Roseville and Weller art pottery that 10 years ago would have gone for $50+ a piece and I was lucky to get $10 now, not ever worth listing really. If you can't put it in the dishwasher or microwave china and glassware are white elephants. Mid-century is hot right now but I don't have much that qualifies. Guy stuff is still going strong which is good since I have/had lots of that.

      I've always believed that you should buy what you love and if it turns out to be a good investment, fine but if not at least you enjoyed it while you had it. I can tell by how you rotate stuff for holidays and entertaining that you truly still enjoy your stuff.

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