The Former Middle Class Trilogy

mastering green
The Former Middle Class eBook Series Available at Amazon.com

INTRODUCTION
There are three ebooks in The Former Middle Class Trilogy.The first ebook is called, The Poor Middle Class Crisis and the second ebook is, Using Credit Cards for Survival and Profit. The ebooks are available on Amazon.com. Mastering the Art of Green is my third ebook in the Former Middle Class trilogy.
 

The Former Middle Class Trilogy
The Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook © 2017 Alison D. Gilbert

THE POOR MIDDLE CLASS CRISIS
The Former Middle Class.The Poor Middle Class Crisis chronicles our history as people who were devastated by the 2008 stock market crash. My husband lost his job the same week as the crash. He was 62 at the time. I became very ill from all the stress.

We had become part of The Former Middle Class and did not know how we were going to survive. Our low point was when we faced the possibility of having no place to live and were, One Day From Homeless.

Our journey became one of survival. That became our priority. We had to learn to live all over again under very different financial circumstances. We explored many different avenues and began to build our financial survival tool kit.

The Former Middle Class
The Financial Survival Toolkit for Living a Consciously Frugal Life from the Viper Tool Storage Company
 
OUR FINANCIAL SURVIVAL TOOL KIT
Building our kit involved many lifestyle changes. We went from a two bedroom apartment to subsidized senior housing. Access to food was a big challenge. Instead of the opportunity to purchase expensive, organic foods and eat out on occasion, we had to depend on the generosity of others and the government. Food pantries and food stamps are crucial financial survival tools. But they may be hard to swallow.

We went from middle class comfort to former middle class frugal living. It was a huge adjustment. We explored many tools that didn’t work for us. Things like couponing and taking surveys. Many more thrifty tools are mentioned in the first ebook. Eventually we found one tool that not only helped us survive but also became profitable. That tool is credit cards.
 

former middle class trilogy
Using Credit Cards for Survival & Profit eBook © 2017 Alison D. Gilbert
USING CREDIT CARDS FOR SURVIVAL AND PROFIT
Let me make very clear right from the start that our use of credit cards has involved a very responsible set of guidelines. We pay all our bills on time and in full. Our credit rating fluctuates between 775 and 800 depending upon which credit reporting agency you ask.

Credit cards have given us a financial cushion between sign up promotional bonuses and monthly cash rewards. My refinement of credit cards as a financial survival tool lasted about eight months. What I have learned, and continue to learn about credit cards is fascinating and extremely informative. I have my accounts charted with spreadsheets for each month. Read My Credit Card Accounts Maintenance System for the details of my system.
 

Former Middle Class Trilogy
Part of My Credit Cards Accounts Maintenance System

In less than a year, I had become sophisticated in the financially lucrative use of the credit card benefits tools. All of a sudden, the additional hefty promotional signup bonus credit card memberships applications began receiving denial letters. My stellar tool of acquiring credit cards with promotional sign up bonuses of $100-$200 had lost its winning streak. Clearly, it was time to rest that tool, re-examine some of the other financial survival tools that I had discarded in the past and to research additional new tools. I was at a loss and needed new financial fertilizer.
 

Former Middle Class Trilogy
Mastering the Art of Green, The Third ebook in the Former Middle Class Trilogy @2018 Alison D. Gilbert
MASTERING THE ART OF GREEN
Mastering the art of green is a process. For me, it has involved taking stepping backwards to get a different, larger view on what ‘green’ means. It can refer to money. It can refer to food, lush grassy fields, innocence and inexperience.

Sure enough, once I stepped back and started to look at green in a new way, as fertility and productivity, new tools started to sprout. I started growing food indoors calling it, Table Top Farming. I am growing microgreen in soil and hydroponics in water.

This project is of major importance to us since healthy, live food sources can be scarce for seniors on fixed incomes. Food pantries tend to offer the lowest quality packaged/processed food. The SNAP (food stamp) program provides a miniscule amount of money to supplement nutritious food. So growing one’s own live, local greens can be better than money in one’s pocket.
 

RECONSIDERING COUPONS, STORE SALES AND SELLING SITES
Coupons and other money saving programs do have their value. They are not as lucrative as credit card sign up promotional bonuses. But what is? There again, when I took a step back to get a better perspective on what made sense for me to pursue, I found many options.

Former Middle Class Trilogy
A great savings of 50% at Michael’s Art & Craft Supplies in store and online

Some coupons like the specials CVS Pharmacy and Michaels Stores-Art Supplies, Crafts and Framing offer can be as high as 40-70%. A Bed, Bath and Beyond 20% coupon get help a lot on a $100 plus purchase. Target, Walmart and Amazon vie for top savings. In addition, there are programs that will automatically check to see if there is a savings special when an online purchase is made. These include Ebates, honey, and cently and piggy. Other apps exist that I have not yet had a chance to explore. Two of the most popular are ibotta and Groupon.

Decluttering, Sarah Mueller style can provide lots of potential items you no longer need and want to sell. The above video is from a workshop she did with an expert at selling stuff. Two of the most popular selling sites are Ebay and Etsy. I have not sold on Ebay. I do have an Etsy store, Tin Can Ali. It displays some of my painted items for fun. I have not really tried to sell anything. But Ebay can be a great place to sell things especially if you watch the Kathy Terrill videos from I Love To Be Selling.
 

CONCLUSION
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Prioritize your options. Find what is most beneficial and takes the least time to execute it. New savings hacks are invented all the time. Be resourceful. Do the research. Continue to read my and other blog posts for the latest information.
 

SOURCES AND RESOURCES
Wallet Hack’s article Target’s Store Shopping Hacks
Wallet Hack’s Article 10 Sites That Pay You Money for Things You’re Already Doing For Free
Ann Gibson The Micro Gardener
Sarah Mueller Decluttering Club
Kathy Terrill I Love To Be Selling – Kathy Terrill
Alison Gilbert’s Facebook pages and groups:
Table Top Farming
Survival Comes First
Savvy Saving Survivalism

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Are We Traditional Millionaires?

 

micromillionaire
‘7 streams of income of millionaires’ from Jim Wang’s ‘Wallet Hacks’
The 7 streams of income of millionaires

According to Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks, millionaires tend to have 7 streams of income. To quote him, “Have you ever heard the statistic that millionaires have an average of seven streams of income? I tried to find the survey, report, or some official repeating that statistic but was unsuccessful. That said, seven sounds good to me.” His list consists of the following sources of passive income:
• “Interest – from a variety of loans, either to individuals (peer to peer lending or private notes) or companies (bonds, notes)
• Dividends – from investments, partnerships
• Capital gains – from the sale of investments
• Royalties – from products you sell or license
• Rental income – from real estate
• Business income – which may or may not be passive but the idea is you build something that generates income without active work,
like a website or the sale of information products”

 

Our 7 Streams of Passive Income

Even though we are part of The Former Middle Class and were One Day From Homeless, we have 7 streams of passive income. Does this mean we are traditional millionaires? Let’s look at our sources of passive income:
• Social security retirement benefits
• credit card sign up promotional rewards
• credit card cash rewards
• Assistance with housing and medical expenses
• Medicare and Medicaid
• Food stamps
• OTC card for over-the-counter medically related expenses up to $100

 

Are We Traditional Millionaires?

We actually have 7 streams of passive income. By definition then, we could be millionaires. But in the real monetary world, we are far from traditional millionaires. In spite of that, let’s say there is another world and another currency. It is a frugal world where large amounts of money do not define us. Our frugal living world involves:
• living on a very tight budget
• buying what we must
• acquiring what we can without having to purchase it
• being creative in making or scavenging for what we need
• limiting frivolous purchases as much as possible
• experiencing joy and meaning in life through activities other than consumerism and spending money as an addiction

 

Another Kind of Millionaire
micro millionaires
The No Spend Chart from The No Spenders! Facebook Group

You could say that we live in a world that is a microcosm of the mainstream financial world. Our world offers much more but in comparison to the mainstream, we do qualify to be micro millionaires. The reason we do is because we have succeeded in surviving in the miniature financial version of the middle class world we used to inhabit.

Survival comes first and we have not only managed to survive. We have become members of the group, Savvy Saving Survivalism.
It allows for most of the things that our middle class necessities allowed for but in much simpler terms and smaller quantities. In order to fit in to this new life while being comfortable in this smaller financial box, we have had to downsize our world to a minimum of material wants. We focus realistically on our material needs and away from consumerism as a lifestyle.

 

Nourishing Minimalism

Nourishing Minimalism has helped a great deal. Because of these internal and external space shifts, we are finding that we now have room for many new interests and goals. Because we are not consumed by wanting lots of dollars to spend, the currency of our current lives is focusing on our dreams. We dream about the avenues we want to explore, the subjects we want to study and where serendipity might lead us going forward in our lives.

micro millionaire
Nourishing Minimalism Yearly Decluttering Challenge-Closed Facebook Group
What Will the Future Bring?

I don’t know how or where we will go. But one thing I know for sure is this. We have managed to have fruitful and peaceful lives in our frugal world as micro millionaires. We have challenges even fears, at times. But they are less than when we had lots more money. We have learned that it does not take lots of money to make dreams come true. So I am sure we will accomplish what we am meant to do. It does take some money. But more importantly, it takes faith, hope and being tenacious about our dreams.

Conclusion: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs

Nowhere in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs does it indicate that one must be a traditional millionaire. It seems to me that being a micro millionaire fits very well with his philosophy. Maybe that is why we feel fulfilled without having lots of money but lots of what money can’t buy.

micro millionaire
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, Illustration by TimVandevall.com ©2013 Dutch Renaissance Press LLC
Afterword

For anyone who can’t resist having an encyclopedic amount of information about passive income ideas, either in number or details, there is a voluminous blog post from Bengu. The name is 45+ Proven Wealth-Building Passive Income Ideas. Be prepared for a very long read. It is also suggested to take on one idea at a time. Become proficient in it and then move on to another passive income stream suggestion. Otherwise, you may become totally overwhelmed. But you will never run out of options.

Sources and Resources

7 streams of income of millionaires, by Jim Wang
The Former Middle Class
One Day From Homeless, Our Story
Survival Comes First
Savvy Saving Survivalism
Nourishing Minimalism
The No Spenders! Facebook Group
Healthy Frugal Food Resources and Recipes
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs vs. The Max Neef Model of Human Scale development Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
45+ Proven Wealth-Building Passive Income Ideas
 

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A Savvy Savings Shopper

 

savvy savings shopper
A Savvy Savings Shopper Award adapted from a Pinterest image

Introduction

I am a Savvy Savings Shopper. Why do I call myself that? It is because I have had to learn, adopt and develop as many money saving, frugal habits and techniques as possible so that I could survive.

It has taken time, energy, research as well as trial and error to learn what to do and how to do it so I could be considered a savvy savings shopper. Consequently, the things that work have helped me to go from being One Day From Homeless, to a Senior Suburban Survivalist and now to A Savvy Savings Shopper.

Therefore the purpose of this blog post, A Savvy Savings Shopper, is to review some of these techniques, tools and tips I have learned. I wish to share what has worked for me with other people who need and want to survive, too. In addition, recognition goes to others who have accomplished a similar feat and to recognize them with The Savvy Savings Shopper Award.

 

ASKING FOR HELP

Back in 2008 when the stock market crashed and my husband was laid off from his job, all within one week, I realized we were going to need help. It really sank in when we had to use his pension and lose my savings just to survive. We needed help. As a result, I had to swallow my pride then learn to ask for help.

GETTING HELP

We researched and applied for whatever social services we could qualify for. We sought help from our local senior center. We got food stamps which were very helpful initially. This was because the amount we got is based upon a peculiar formula reflecting past income and medical expenses. But as time went on, our income was reduced to unemployment and there was less money for medical expenses. As a result, our monthly food stamp allotment diminished substantially.

APPLYING AND QUALIFYING FOR GOVERNMENT ASSISTED LIVING

Consequently, we had to continue to seek out other opportunities for assistance. Fortunately we did find subsidized, senior housing where we continue to live today. Refer to another blog post I wrote about affordable housing.
savvy savings shopper
 

GOING TO FOOD PANTRIES FOR FOOD

Since we had such limited income and minimal food stamps, we had to find other sources for food. There are food pantries in just about every town where we live. Most are open once a month and some are weekly. We have found the ones that work best for us. But even then, there is still a shortage of fresh produce and meat.
 

GOING TO FOOD PANTRIES FOR CLOTHES

Some food pantries also have clothes that have been donated. Depending upon the source and the community, the clothes can be very good quality. Since I cannot afford to even go to thrift stores any more, these ‘Lord’s Taylors’, as my husband calls them, are a tremendous help.
 

COUPON WEBSITES

Some websites are specifically for coupons for food, household and all kinds of item. One of them is coupons.com.

savvy savings shopper
A sample of the coupons that can be printed and downloaded from coupons.com

 

SHOPPING THROUGH CASHBACK WEBSITES
Both BeFrugal.com and ebates.com are cash back websites.
Savvy Savings Shopper
BeFrugal.com is a Cashback website

savvy savings shopper
ebates.com is a cashback website.

 

SHOPPING WHERE I GET SENIOR DISCOUNTS

AARP.COM is a great source for senior discounts. In addition, there are restaurants and stores that give discounts to seniors. But don’t wait for them to tell you. ASK rather than wait for them to let you know!

savvy savings shopper
The AARP website is a great source of senior discounts and offers
Some supermarkets give everyday discounts to seniors, like Wild By Nature. Others have senior discounts one day of the week, like Gala Fresh and Compare. Riteaid gives seniors a discount on the first Wednesday of the month.

SHOPPING AT DISCOUNT STORES

There are all kinds of discount stores from cheap dollar stores to high end ones. My favorite is HomeGoods. In fact, if you use their credit card for purchases, you earn points and get a $10 store coupon for each 1000 points earned.

savvy savings shopper
HomeGoods is my favorite discount store that carries designer items from food to furniture

savvy savings shopper
I am a CVS Supersaver in the top 4% of their stores in New York.
SHOPPING WHERE I GET GREAT SAVINGS

CVS Pharmacy, their official name, carries much more than prescriptions. I buy all kinds of household items there. Because they regularly offer discount coupons, I regularly shop at their stores. In fact, they just acknowledged me as being in the top 4% of supersavers in their New York stores. This is because I regularly make purchases at deep discounts from CVS. These include:
• all my paper goods
• vitamins
• kitchen accessories
• dental care products
• occasional candy and dessert treats
• nasal and vision aids
• over the counter medical needs
• clothes and shoes
• hair care products
• special body soaps
• skin care products

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird's eye maple table with colorful legs. © Decorative Painting by Alison Gilbert
Bird’s eye maple table with colorful legs. © Decorative Painting by Alison Gilbert
GETTING FURNISHINGS FROM THE TRASH (STREET FINDS) AND GARAGE SALES

Unless something is made out of fabric and stuffing, like beds and chairs, I have gotten almost all our furniture from street finds or garage sales. In fact, the quality of old wooden furniture is far superior to the new cheap materials, chipboard and fast growing pine. Consequently, old furniture is in demand.

After honing my skills on pieces I got at at little or no cost or my own furniture, I took on client work and started a business painting,customer furniture and creating custom decorations.
From this, my own 5-Step Decorative Painting System emerged. Here are the five steps involved:
1. Prep
2. Prime
3. Paint
4. Prettify
5. Protect

A manual that describes the process step-by-step is in progress. This makes it possible for anyone to upcycle old furniture and furnishings.

 

USING CREDIT CARDS RESPONSIBLY

PLEASE NOTE THE NEW SECTION DEVOTED TO CREDIT CARDS USAGE. BECAUSE OF THIS, CREDIT CARD USE SYSTEMS ARE NO LONGER PART OF SAVVY SHOPPING SAVINGS TOOLS.

Because of the potential financial dangers of using credit cards irresponsibly, I especially caution that only people with excellent credit and extreme diligence with their use of credit cards follow these ideas. I compiled two booklet from resource materials that detail the best credit cards to use for cash back and travel rewards. They are The Best Cash Back Credit Cards and The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards. Furthermore, there is a website creditcards.com that will actually calculate which are the best credit cards to use for individual needs.

savvy savings shopper
Credit Cards from Linkedin.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PARTICIPATING IN SOCIAL MEDIA ON THIS TOPIC

Participating in Facebook groups and pages as well as websites can provide lots of new information. The groups can also function as support groups. I strongly recommend joining and participating. Some of my favorite sources are listed below.

READING AND WRITING BLOG POSTS WITH SUGGESTIONS ON THIS TOPIC

Reading and writing blog posts are two great ways of learning new tips as well as processing what one knows on this topic. Here is another blog post I wrote on this topic, Living A Consciously Frugal Life.

READ EVERYTHING I CAN ON THIS TOPIC AND WRITE AN eBOOK ABOUT IT

Especially relevant to writing on this topic to read, are other sources of material. Based upon extensive research and writing, I composed, The Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook. It is designed to ‘tell our story’, going from ‘One Day from Homeless’ to where we are now. The book is filled with savvy savings shopper tips.

a Savvy Savings Shopper
Poor Middle Class Crisis eBook
Conclusion

In conclusion, the list of resources is growing exponentially. It will continue to grow as the need and demand for savvy shavings shopping tips increases.

Sources and Resources

The Savvy Savings Shopper Facebook page
Savvy Shopper Savings Facebook group
A Senior Suburban Survivalist Facebook page
Senior Suburban Survivalism Facebook group
Survival Comes First Facebook page
WiseBread.com website with a Facebook page
WalletHacks.com website with a Facebook page
CreditCards.com website with a Facebook page
NerdWallet.com website with a Facebook page

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Our Frugal Vacation for Members of the Former Middle Class

 

How We Took A Frugal Vacation As Members of The Former Middle Class

This fact is in spite of what Erika Rawes wrote in The Cheat Sheet entitled, ’10 Things the Middle Class Can’t Afford Anymore’. At the very top of her list was the word, VACATION.

This blog post will disprove her statement. In addition to disproving her, I also pronounce that the Middle Class she referred to is disappearing and becoming The Former Middle Class. Even with that added financial burden, it is possible to take a frugal vacation.

It is different from a Middle Class or Upper Middle Class vacation. I will not dispute that. Actually, it involves actions that a middle class person would not take or need to take. Nonetheless, it is still a vacation. I have proof. That proof is what this post is all about.

frugal vacation
10 Things The Middle Class Can’t Afford Anymore by Erika Rawes

I had not seen most of my family for six years. They live in Colorado. In fact, the last time I had been to Colorado was for my nieces weddings. Their four children were not yet a gleam in anyone’s eyes. We were long overdue to visit now that I had become a great-aunt. Since we had become member of The Former Middle Class, I did not know how that was going to be possible. As it was, we were barely making ends meet.

But as my husband and I told ourselves, life is short. We are both hovering about our seventh decade and live a day at a time. So one never knows how many days, weeks, months or years that might be. Time was of the essence even if the funds were not apparent. I was determined to make this the year we would return to Colorado, it’s beautiful mountains, past great fly fishing experience and now three great nephews as well as a great niece.

This Is How Financing Our Frugal Vacation Came Together

Pay close attention to this part because this is how to create the opportunity to take a frugal vacation. There are essential ingredients to this alchemical formula. They include and are primarily:
• Travel Rewards Credit Cards
• Promotions
• Help from family
• Help from friends

TRAVEL REWARDS CREDIT CARDS
Without having any idea when a trip to Colorado would happen or what it would cost, I went ahead and signed up with our first Travel Rewards Card, The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card. It was with a highly reputable bank and the one we also had other cards with. After using it for a little while, we accumulated a few hundred travel rewards points. One ticket was charged on that card. This card happens to be the top card recommended by Wise Bread in this article.

frugal vacation
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card

 

I then took advantage of another promotion towards realizing our frugal vacation. It was a Travel Rewards Card from Capital One, Venture One.

frugal vacation
The Capital One VentureOne Travel Rewards Card

By the time I had paid for the airline tickets, I did not need to use the equivalent in travel points of $200.plus. I called Capital One and they were able to upgrade me to the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card. This became the equivalent of cash I could use anywhere for anything. It actually paid for our out of pocket expenses on our trip.

frugal vacation
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

frugal Vacation
Delta Skymiles Credit Card
In continuing my Travel Rewards Credit Card research, I came upon a number of articles about what were considered the best cards for travel rewards. One in particular recommended the Delta SkyMiles Credit Card. It just so happens that Delta Airlines flies to Denver. Also, the promotion for this card included $100 off the first trip and 30,000 additional points if a certain amount of money was charged within a certain amount of time. From past experience, I knew this would be manageable. Due to some confusion with signing up, I ended up with two accounts, saved $200 on our flights and am now working on the 30,000 travel rewards points.

OTHER PROMOTIONS
When it came time to go home, we decided to try the SuperShuttle. We had taken the newly completed light rail system from the airport to the hotel. It was a bit grueling as it happened to be raining and snowing that particular day in May. Although it was a thrifty $9. for both of us. Using that method of return transportation was out of the question.

In arranging for our $38. Super Shuttle ride to the airport, there was a prompt on the phone that gave us the opportunity to receive two $20. refund coupons. I usually ignore these kinds of offers. But as a Former Middle Class, I felt it was my duty to investigate. We signed up for $1 to try the greatfun.com website. If we didn’t like it, we could cancel within thirty days and we would receive no other charges. I have to make sure I contact them before June 23. If not, the fee goes up to $16.99 per month.

THANKS TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Our family treated us royally providing food and lodging. Friends drove us to and from the airport, lent money to fill in the gaps and one friend in particular lent us two suitcases which she then said we could keep. Let me not forget our neighbor who took in our mail for the time we were gone so we did not have to deal with the post office.

We already miss the mountain view outside our hotel window. With all the travel points we are now accumulating who know how soon we will have a snow capped view when we look outside. We hope and plan that it will be soon.

frugal vacation
View of Snow Capped Rocky Mountains Looking West From Denver by John Bielick on Flickr
CONCLUSIONS
From when we first started pricing our trip, the flight costs rose daily. My husband searched for several days and became dizzy between all the various supposed discount options, Orbits.com, Travelocity.com, AARP.com and others. For some reason, I decided to try again. It seemed to me that there had to be a way to get to where we wanted to go and back for under $1200. By the time I finished the research, locked in our fares and got promotional discounts, our airfares were $650 including flight cancellation insurance. Now that we have shared some of the ways to took our frugal vacation, we hope you will find these tips helpful so you can take a frugal vacation, too.

SOURCES & RESOURCES
Cheat Sheet Article

No Hassle Travel Rewards Card With Highest Results

5 Top Travel Rewards Cards

Delta SkyMiles Rewards Card

Super Shuttle

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