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Archive for August, 2016

Container Gardening Successes and Failures

August 25th, 2016 at 08:02 pm

It's no secret that I am NOT a gardening whiz.
It's also no secret that I believe in focusing on both the big AND small things when it comes to my personal finances. Here's an update on a small thing - my attempts at container gardening.

The soil in my yard will NOT grow veggies. To amend the soil or build raised garden beds is, for me with my brown thumb and gardening laziness, an absurd thought.

In the spring I planted 4 items in containers. 2 were dismal failures. The containers were not nearly big enough to grow daikon (what was I thinking?) and the cherry tomato plants yielded only a handful of fruit.
But, the sweet basil starter plants have been a success (still yielding). My biggest success by far was green onions grown from seed. DH & I have been enjoying piles of fresh green onions, and I only planted half of the packet. Since we live in a hot climate (Texas), I will plant the second half of the packet in a week or two for fall / early winter harvesting.

Next spring I'll plant green onions again (they are so expensive at the grocery store and have proven so easy to grow - definitely worth it), and will try basil from seed instead of from starter plants so that I can (hopefully) get a lot more. I'll probably experiment and try one other item as well.I'm going to look through my "Healthy Mind Cookbook" to come up with some ideas. I want it to be something easy to grow in containers, expensive to buy in stores, and beneficial. Something that I can get 2 plantings out of would be nice too. Hey! Maybe I'll even try something new this fall. Why not?

I'm open to suggestions if anyone reading this has any.

Update - NOT buying a condo for in-laws

August 24th, 2016 at 04:07 pm

FIL's health is in rapid decline. His doctor says that he may live another year, or he could die before 2016 year-end. The doctor has given approval for FIL to move in to a hospital to live out the rest of his life, but FIL will not go . . . at least not yet. DH's opinion is "He has no choice. He has to go." and will try to convince him thus when he visits next month. DH sees it as necessary to save MIL's health and sanity. We'll see.

A move (other than to a hospital) is out of the question right now.

Also, DH has been consulting with his BFF who is knowledgeable about the local real estate market and has concluded that buying a condo is not a good idea, because they think the RE market in DH's home country is in for a lengthy decline with no bottom in sight. It would make more sense to just provide some sort of monetary subsidy.

For the time being, MIL & FIL will stay where they are. After FIL passes, MIL's options will be wide open. She will probably move back to her old neighborhood (where we had planned to purchase the condo and which is near family), but there is also a slight chance she may move in with her sister in another city, or try something different. When the time comes, and she's ready to make the decision, I know she'll talk things over with DH. She always does.

FrugalTexan had asked if it was an option for them to move to the USA near us. At this time it is not. When we relocated to Austin, FIL & MIL applied for a visa so that they could move near us but were denied. US citizens aren't allowed to sponsor in-laws, so I can't. DH would only be able to sponsor MIL if he got US citizenship. He has looked in to citizenship, but so far has decided against it because dual citizenship isn't an option. He's willing to be a US citizen, but not yet ready to give up the citizenship he has had all of his life. I understand that.

SecretarySaving asked about home delivery of groceries, which is a great idea. I mentioned that to DH and he likes the idea. MIL does not have a computer or use the internet, so DH is going to look into it when he visits next month. Perhaps they could set up some sort of regular delivery, or he could order for her from here in the US? He'll check to see if that's feasible.

(Now that I think about it, while writing this out it dawns on me that giving some money to DH's BFF and asking him to place the orders might also work. The guy is a peach. He's 100% responsible and trustworthy, and has been DH's friend through thick and thin since elementary school. I'll throw that out to DH as an option.)

On a positive note, FIL has started going to adult day care one or two days a week. He tried it in the past and didn't like it so stopped going. Now he is willing because he is getting some essential care (specifically bathing) when he is at day care, so that takes some of the load off of MIL.

I'm going to put together a deluxe assortment of chocolates for DH to bring to FIL when he visits next month. FIL loves chocolates, and we always send some, but this time it will be an extra special lot. I will also send a bit of cash for MIL to use as she sees fit.

As far as what sort of assistance we will provide down the road, that remains to be seen. At the very least, there will be more overseas trips in DH's future and some form of financial assistance to MIL. I won't be surprised to see years of flat household net worth, and that will be just fine.

"People first, then money, then things." - Suze Orman

2 Year Spending Goals Update Number 3 - Condo For In-Laws

August 2nd, 2016 at 06:10 pm

I've struggled with how much I want to share about this. My decision is to share only some of the background info. DH's parents (who live in another country) are going through a tough time. FIL just turned 80 and has serious health issues. MIL is healthy but worn out from caring for him. Due to a major financial setback that occurred shortly before retirement, after they retired they moved to an inexpensive rental in a semi-rural area which was initially very charming but has become increasingly undesirable (far from family, limited medical resources, and a burden on MIL when running errands because she does not drive). FIL is rather stubborn about accepting assistance from non-family. Yes, this exacerbates the problem (especially for poor MIL), but at 80 years of age he is not going to change his ways.

DH and I want to help - because they are family, and because their negative financial situation is largely due to bad luck. No, they haven't managed their finances perfectly. (Who has?) But they haven't been grossly irresponsible either. And more than anything we know that MIL needs relief!

Because we live so far away, there are limits to the amount of hands-on assistance we can provide. DH visits twice a year and chauffers MIL around so that she can get things done and takes her out to eat.

In the spring we gave them a small cash gift. But we knew we needed to do more. After talking and thinking about it, almost simultaneously DH and I came up with the idea of perhaps purchasing a condo for them - someplace near family, with better medical resources, and with easy access to public transportation.

Before I go any further, I should say that this is NOT a "done deal." DH is going to fly overseas and go condo shopping in the fall to see what the options and prices really are in the two specific areas he has in mind. And we need to research a few legal questions regarding a foreigner (in this case, that would be me) owning and/or inheriting property in DH's home country. Only after we have decided that this is a feasible option for us, then DH will approach the in-laws with our proposal.

This is how we see the "deal" being structured:
- DH & I would buy the condo
- DH & I would pay the property taxes
- FIL & MIL would pay the HOA dues
- FIL & MIL would pay the utilities

The idea is to find a place where the HOA dues plus the utilities are less than their current rent. It would also need to be a place that MIL could afford on her own after FIL passes (her retirement benefits will decrease). MIL would be welcome to live there for as long as she is able; we estimate she'll be there 20-25 years. DH would stay with them when he travels to that part of the country on business, saving him a little bit on hotel expenses.

After MIL passes, we would sell the condo and use the proceeds in our later years.

Financially speaking, this will not make life easier for DH & I. We'll have the added expense of the property tax on the condo (I've been told much lower than here in the US), we'll be exposed to currency risk (by purchasing an asset in foreign currency), and we'll have more of our net worth tied up in non-financial assets. But it won't be an unbearable burden either. Financially speaking, we feel it is a better option than just giving the in-laws cash on a regular basis. And for MIL and FIL, we think that it would make their lives much, much easier (especially MIL) and we hope this form of assistance will be easy to accept.

This is a pretty big goal. And not one that we had ever imagined until just a few months ago. When you are young you cannot imagine how your financial goals may change over time and when you might need those "extra" savings.