They were both SO GOOD! Hepworth is from Melbourne and I really enjoyed reading stories set in the suburbs and places I know. Her characters are beautifully portrayed and the situations they find themselves in are gripping. I can highly recommend these novels and I’ll be hunting down the rest of her work when I get back.
I’ve downloaded 3 audiobooks by Fiona Lowe, another Aussie author, thinking that I might need lots of listening things. A 1,000 KM drive each way means there’s a lot of hours in the car to fill!
However, I’m still barely through the first 3rd of this book. I caught up on my podcasts along the drive up, and since I’ve been here in this beachside hotel I’ve spent a lot of time with the door to my balcony open, just listening to the rhythmic sound of the sea.
What I’m eating:Pre-prepared salads and sourdough.
When I go away on a holiday by myself, I tend to race around and see things during the day and then, when it gets towards twilight, head back to the room to spend my evenings. Safety first! There are a few crazies out there and I’d prefer not to run into one.
This trip, I decided to try some of the frozen meals and pre-packed salads at Coles and Woolworths to see what they’re like.
The verdict on the salads? Pretty darned good.
The frozen meals? Last night I had the WORST meal ever. Supposedly chicken and leek pie, it was a disgusting mush.
Thank goodness I also had some delicious sourdough bread rolls that I smeared with hommus. Saved the day!
Tonight’s lamb rogan josh had better be ok. I only have one sourdough roll left.
What I’m planning: lunch with a blogging friend.
Frogdancer Jones and Fifi La Stupenda (which may not be our real names) first met in real life 13 years ago when I was last in Sydney. It was a blog meet so the Sydney girls could meet me – from Melbourne – and generally just have a nice girls’ night out.
Since then we haven’t clapped eyes on each other again, but we’ve stayed in touch via FB. We met for brunch yesterday and had such a good time that we’re having lunch again today. She swims every day at Manly Beach. Not 5 minutes ago we were waving at each other – she on the foreshore, me on the balcony – and we’ll grab a bite to eat once she’s finished her swim.
Who needs a good slap:Everyone who has crowded out Easter Island so I can’t go there.
Yes, I’ve paid for flights, accommodation and insurance for Antarctica, but Easter Island is off the itinerary. After the cruise was impossible – all booked out. Before the cruise was possible, but my travel agent said, “I’m seeing that they’re cancelling a lot of flights. I’d hate for you to be stranded there and miss your cruise. You said Antarctica was the main reason you’re travelling, right?”
So yes. No Easter Island. Maybe next time.
What has made me smile:Fifi’s conviction that I’d love to swim in the ocean.
I don’t even do that in the summer, unless it’s about 45C and I’m right by the beach. I didn’t even pack my bathers. She said that I could swim in my underwear, but I don’t think I want to ruin the ambience of Manly Beach so cruelly.
Even when things appear to be going pear-shaped and there’s confusion all around, when time moves on and the dust settles, it nearly always turns out that I’ve ended up in a better position afterward. Viewing life from the lens of the long game is something that has made me an optimist.
Look at what happened yesterday, for example.
You all know that I’m going to Antarctica in December. Of course, I would never go to a place without doing my research about it. Even though we’ll be getting lectures on the ship from Polar experts, who knows if I’ll be able to attend? I might be dying from seasickness. Of course, I’ll have to learn about Antarctica before I go there!
Yesterday I was having a chat with a few people in the staffroom and I was asked if I could teach geography. A friend is taking 6 weeks’ Long Service Leave in term 3 and she wondered if I’d be interested in taking over her classes. I laughed and said, “Is there marking involved?” because I’ve stated lots of times that I’ll NEVER do any marking again.**
After being told that it was at the end of term so yes, lots of marking was involved, I politely declined her invitation.
In the class after lunch, the kids were being angelic and I was bored so I decided to look at the curriculum to see what the year 8s and 9s are being taught in Geography. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the 8’s are going to be covering deserts – Antarctica and Australia’s deserts. WHAT?!?
I shot an email off to my friend, saying, “You didn’t say that I’d be teaching about Antarctica! I’ll be there in December! I’m interested now…”
She’s volunteered to teach me the ‘mathsy’ parts of the courses before she leaves, so that’s ok. Half an hour later and it was all official.
Fortunate Frogdancer is going to be paid to do her research on Antarctica!
As regards the marking, I’m pretty sure it won’t be as full-on as the English essay marking I’m used to. With most questions, the kids will either get the answers right or wrong. Lesson plans are already written and all I have to do is deliver them. Once the mathsy situations are ironed out then it’ll be a breeze.
And the extra cash will come in handy for the flights and accommodation. This trip will not be cheap. I know that I won’t enjoy having to do the marking, either.
But when I’m waddling around with the penguins on the Antarctic ice and gazing at the moai on Easter Island, I know I’ll be glad I did it.
** Every time I’ve said I’ll never do something, I’ve always ended up doing it. You’d think I’d learn!
Dad joke of the day:
My son turned 4 this morning and it took me ages to recognise him. I’ve never seen him be four.
I chose this book purely because I like to have an eBook on the go and it was available immediately on Borrowbox. It’s a hidden gem.
It’s primarily set in the Outback, with vivid descriptions of the land. I’ve never been, but now I want to go even more! Let’s face it – every Aussie needs to see Uluru at least once in their lives. It’s a rite of passage.
Plus, the protagonist owns a sausage dog. I approve.
What I’m listening to:Tom30 talking about real estate.
Tom30 is a few weeks away from being able to throw his hat into the real estate market and it’s practically all he can talk about.
Luckily, I don’t mind a bit of real estate talk and I LOVE going to open houses. The last few Saturdays we’ve been galloping through units and apartments in his price range.
I have to say, 500K doesn’t buy much nowadays.
What I’m eating:Schnitzels.
I love me a schnitty! I can handle a parma but I prefer a plain schnitzel. I’m a woman of simple tastes.
Mum is still in the rehab hospital – they’re keeping her in for another week – so I’m having Dad over for dinner tonight before I go away. Schnitzels have been defrosted and are ready for crumbing!
What I’m planning: How and when I’m going to post my thermomix off to the spa.
My first thermomix is now 10 years old. She’s served me very well, both as an easy way to cook and as a business tool when I was a thermomix consultant.
She’s been used almost every day during those 10 years and she needs to have a service. This is how good these machines are – the button for the scales has disintegrated but the scales still work!
That’s going above and beyond.
If I post her to the service centre before I go, she might return to the house before I get back. Seems like a good use of the time to me. My sister has suggested that I trade her in for a brand-new tm6, but there’s no way I’m parting with my tm31. You’ll have to prise her from my cold, dead hands.
The boys will still have my tm5, as well as Ryan27’s tm31 and Tom30’s tm5, so they’ll be able to feed themselves.
Who needs a good slap:People who are clogging up the direct flights to South America to and from Australia.
Seriously – why should I have to fly into Los Angeles to get down to South America? It’ll be a 50 hour flight!!
Still, if I have to set foot on North American soil, that’ll mean that by the time I reach Antarctica I’ll have visited all 7 continents. This has never been a bucket list for me, but I feel incredibly lucky to be so close to ticking this off.
In the FI/RE space there’s an abundance of posts about how to get to financial independence. (Quite a large percentage are written by people who haven’t yet managed to get there themselves.) There are fewer posts written about what it’s like to actually reach FI and retire. I’ve written quite a few of these sorts of posts during 2021 – the year of lockdowns and my blissfully happy first year of retirement.
But there aren’t too many posts about what it’s like to retire – then pick up work afterwards.
Surely I’m not the only person to have done this? Maybe it’s seen as a sign of shame; that somehow the financial independence hasn’t ‘worked’?
Whatever the reason that people don’t write about this much, I’m stepping up to shine a light on what it’s like to say a blissful goodbye to a career – with a kick-arse speech goodby that I’m still proud of – to then, a little more than a year later, fronting up back at the school again. As I write this I’m sitting in front of a year 9 class, tapping away here while they’re putting the finishing touches onto a political campaign they’re running. Fiddy bucks in my pocket for 48 minutes’ work, before I move onto the next class for another fiddy.
Here I am, swapping my precious time for money. This is something I didn’t think I’d ever do. Except, in the back of my mind, I had a feeling in my waters that this massive bull market probably wouldn’t keep going for another 5 years. I had a vague game plan in my mind that if the market fell before 2026, I’d probably pick up a few days of CRT, (casual relief teaching), to ease the Sequence of Returns Risk.
So, as we all know the market has taken a tumble. At the same time, schools are desperate for CRTs due to covid and the flu, along with regular things like school camps etc. I went back into the classroom as a perfect storm was hitting Australian schools.
I was lucky, in that I still loved being in the classroom when I retired, so it wasn’t as if I was dragging myself back to a job I hated. And as luck would have it, all the boring admin, report writing and diagnostic testing are things that CRTs don’t get asked to perform. Talk about a win right there!
When I began, I had a couple of weeks of a day or two of teaching, then I was suddenly plunged into a month of full-time teaching. The last two weeks have been back to the retired life with no work days, with today, Wednesday and Thursday being back at school in this last week of term 2.
So it’s been interesting to see how I adjusted to going back to work, especially during the month when I was essentially full-time.
To be honest, it was a little scary how easily I went back to the old routine of getting up when the alarm rang and racing around the house to get out by a certain time. I’d had over a year of leisurely mornings waking up when I felt like it, (or really, when Jeffrey decided it was time to wake up and he’d shake the bed with his scratching. ) In retirement I tend to ease into my mornings, staying on the couch until 9 or 10, laptop on my lap and the dogs snoozing by my side.
Now, suddenly I was pitchforked into day after day of early starts, one after the other. I honestly thought it would take longer to adjust back to the old routine than it did. It took the middle of the first “full-time” week and I was back in the swing of it.
Clothes organised, lunch organised, water bottle filled and my bag packed with everything I’d need for the day ahead. No lollygagging around on the internet, oh no! Pour a coffee, solve the Wordle, post a couple of Dad jokes on Facebook, check my timetable to see what the day will hold and then it’s off the couch and into the shower. Keep moving! Time is ticking!
In the car, podcast on. Driving on the freeway, having a goal in mind of being at the last main intersection before school at 8:20. Winning if I shave a minute or two off that time. Walk into school, grab a laptop and keys, up to the staffroom to see what’s in store for me today. A couple of minutes before the bell, start walking to the first classroom to let the kids in and be ready to call the roll at 8:50 when the bell goes.
It’s honestly like riding a bike.
The ease of slipping back into that old rushed routine was, as I said, a little scary. I’d absolutely adored my 2021 year of being absolutely free and it was astonishing how quickly it was overtaken by the requirements of the work routine. Even the little woofs quickly worked out which day was going to be a “Mum’s home” day or not. During 2021, every time I left the house they’d freak out and wait for me all day, if necessary. Since I started work, Ryan27 says that it took a week before they went back to their old routine of sleeping through the day and only starting to wait for me at the front window at about 4PM.
We’re all conditioned by The Man!
It’s not just the blissful retirement morning routine that was affected. After a calming 2021 free of the tyranny of having to fit things in on the weekends, I was suddenly doing the ironing on a Sunday afternoon, making sure I did the bread baking (for lunches) on the weekends, and generally cramming all of the activities that I used to spread luxuriously through the working week all into two days.
I realised that I was starting to think, “I don’t have TIME for this!” whenever something went even the slightest bit wrong. Apparently, I used to say that a lot before my retirement. Time suddenly switched from being my beloved friend to my enemy.
Once I’m at work, my days are a strange mix of watching time drag and being really entertained. There’s no denying that I talk to a hell of a lot more people when I’m at school. The kids are always funny and up for a bit of banter, while my free times are spent chatting to work colleagues and having a laugh.
The social side of going back to work is lovely. Don’t get me wrong; I adore my hermit life at home, but I’m also enjoying being with the people at work.
The downside of being with people is that I’m mixing with around 900 of the hormonally challenged. Yes, I’m talking about teenagers.
Now, teenagers are sometimes hilarious, sometimes deep and sometimes thoughtful. The kids at our school are, for the vast majority of the time, polite, considerate and lovely. However…
… occasionally you’ll strike a kid having a bad day. They don’t WANT to be told to do their work, they don’t WANT to be quiet and not disrupt the class and they’ll be DAMNED if they’ll listen to a ‘sub’.
As I’m in the middle of doing the dance that is maintaining control of the class without pushing this sort of kid into open rebellion, I’m thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t need this shit. I could be doing anything else right now…”
Or you’ll have a class at the end of the day or week who are just over it. Their regular teacher has left screamingly dull work for them to do and all they want to do is get through the next 48 minutes so they can go home. Low-level talking gradually rises in volume as more and more kids switch off and start talking to their friends. It seems like every 3 minutes I’m saying, “Ok year 8! Too loud!”
And I’m thinking, “I know. I’m bored. I feel it too. Only 15 minutes till the bell goes and we’re free! Oh no. I’m clock watching again.”
Man! Clock watching is definitely a THING. When you’re a regular teacher you have to be conscious of the time. Every lesson has an arc and you have to know where you are within that 48 minutes to drive the lesson to a successful conclusion. So clock-watching is a necessary part.
CRT is a different beast. I enter the room, call the roll and introduce the lesson. Then, unless kids have specific questions that I can help them with – which is never when I’m taking a Maths class- the rest of the time I’m pretty much making sure that the kids stay on task and aren’t misbehaving. I find that I’m watching the clock a lot. Not in a productive “lesson arc” way but more of an “oof, there’s still half an hour to go… I could be doing anything with my time… hmmmm, if I was home right now, what would I be doing?”
I REALLY don’t want to get covid and, as we all know, working in schools is a high-risk thing to do. I’m one of the few teachers to mask up. I wear a KN95 mask from the moment I get out of the car in the morning to when I get back into it at the end of the day and this, coupled with being triple vaxxed and vaxxed for the flu, has so far kept me covid safe.
(Touch wood, as my grandmother would say.)
But then, every fortnight I get paid. I like getting paid.
In this post I designed a chart to track where my earnings were going. So much more motivating than just plodding into work every day! I’ve modified it slightly since then, but I’ve basically worked my way down the chart “paying off” every item in turn.
Of course, the money I earn usually goes to my credit card, which I always keep in the black, to pay for our day-to-day expenses. But this protects my savings, which is incredibly important. Six months into a market downturn, I haven’t had to sell any shares or touch any savings or emergency fund money due to the combo of earnings and dividends. I’ve even been able to top up my savings.
This makes me feel very good.
Later on today, I have an appointment with a travel agent to find out about airfares etc to Easter Island and Ushuaia for my Antarctica trip in December. I know I should probably bring a defibrillator with me to start my heart after I hear the prices. I’ve already earned 2K towards airfares, but now that I’m definitely going to Easter Island, I’ll be adding an extra line to that chart for lots more funds needed.
Tom30 is looking to buy a place of his own and is living here to turbocharger his deposit savings. I’ve offered to give him 5K in lieu of wedding costs and lend him a further 10K if he needs it. I’m chipping away at that 5K on the chart – just under 3K to go!
I won’t deny – knowing that giving up some of my days to be able to provide extras for myself and my family without tapping shares during a bear market feels like a good trade-off long term. Knowing that I’ve actioned the flexibility in my FI plan is satisfying.
Would I have gone back to work if we were still in a bull market?
That’s an interesting question.
The catalyst for me starting CRT work was that I heard that the school was desperate for CRTs because so many staff were getting sick. I owe the school BIG TIME for the financial security I was able to build for my boys when they were kids. Part of why I went back was that I was giving back to the place that had saved our financial bacon, back in the day.
I think that I still would have gone back, but I would probably have worked fewer days. Still, I can’t deny that it was interesting to see that I still had it in me!
After working off and on for 3 months after experiencing nearly 18 months of retirement, I have to say that it’s been ok. In fact, it’s been better than I expected. To be fair, I have a huge amount of flexibility. I can say “no” to work whenever I want, and if the school doesn’t offer me enough work I can always work elsewhere as well. There are many, many secondary schools in Melbourne!
The feelings of regret over my loss of freedom in the days when I’m in the classroom are definitely offset by the security offered by an extra income stream during a market downturn. I absolutely know that I did the right thing when I decided to pivot. I’ve had too many years of being terrified by my financial situation to want to risk having sleepless nights again! A few days back in the classroom in the early days of my retirement is a very small price to pay for the huge benefit of feeling like I’m doing the right thing for Future Frogdancer’s financial security in her golden years.
The intangible positives of returning to work are a nice bonus. I enjoy 98% of my interactions with the kids and I work with truly lovely people. I’ve met some other CRTs who are great, but I was always too busy to sit down and get to know them when I was a ‘real’ teacher. I also like the pattern of the days as a CRT – you are given every single period on AND a yard duty, but at the end of the day you can walk out right on the bell, instead of having to attend meetings etc. I’m getting home at a reasonable time nowadays – with no marking!
My mindset about this shifted when it occurred to me that my 3 year stash of living expenses that I’ve put away in case of a market downturn could be stretched indefinitely if I earned just half of my yearly expenses doing CRT.
How many days a week would that be over the first 3 terms of the school year? (Term 4 is pretty much a write-off for CRTs. Once the year 12s start having their exams, the year 12 teachers start taking all the spare classes.)
Two days a week. That’s all it would take.
… Or I could get sick of it and decide to simply stop doing it. Financial Independence is a wonderful thing.
What’s top of my mind: Why the news is so sensational.
Ok, so the share market went down today. A lot.
I was watching 9 News last night and the way they were reporting it – you’d swear that boatloads of Vikings had swarmed in and raped and pillaged everyone’s Superannuation accounts. According to them, everyone’s retirements are fu#*ed.
Seriously? Get a fu#*ing grip.
I’m not saying that things won’t be rough for a while. But it won’t last forever. The doom and gloom reporting was eyebrow-raising.
Still, having said that, I think I’ve made the right decision to do CRT work at the moment. I have my contingency plan for a bear market, but having some income trickling in while a bear market is happening within the first 5 years of my retirement seems to be a very good decision.
Where I’ve been:Wedding dress shopping (again).
This time it was at a place in Oakleigh. They gave each of us a glass of pink champagne while we were there.
Where I’m going:another wedding dress expedition.
Izzy tried on a dress that she loved. Months ago. At a place on the other side of the city.
Despite having tried on MANY other ones, apparently the Deer Park dress is “the one”. She’s booking an appointment this week to go back.
What I’m watching:Peaky Blinders (season 6.)
A kid who was in Tom30’s year level at school is in this season as one of the major characters. I’ve been meaning to watch this show for years – it’s been on my Netflix watchlist since I first bought a subscription.
When I heard James Frecheville was in this final season, I finally started watching. Now I’ve only got 5 episodes left to go.
What I’m reading:More Anne Tyler.
I’m halfway through The Accidental Tourist and I have Clock Dance waiting by my bed. I read The Accidental Tourist decades ago but I can’t remember much about it, so seeing as I’m reading as much Anne Tyler as I can lay my hands on, I picked up this novel again.
I SO love Tyler’s writing. She’s a master at understated prose.
Many of you would have heard (or heard about) the podcast called The Teacher’s Pet, which investigated the disappearance of Lyn Dawson, a married mother of two little girls. This happened 40 years ago. At the time, her husband was having an affair with one of his 17 year old students. What a delightful man he must have been. #sarcasm
This podcast was riveting, especially when it started uncovering the toxic predatory culture of the 1970’s secondary school scene on Sydney’s northern beaches. It was gobsmacking.
Anyway, he’s now on trial for the murder of his wife Lynette. This new podcast is following the trial, week by week. I only recently found out about it so I’m playing catch-up.
What I’m eating: See the photo at the top of this post.
I decided to make not only bread rolls for lunches, but also ham and cheese scrolls. I think the boys’ll like ’em.
What I’m planning: my upcoming Sydney holiday.
Yesterday I realised that in less than 2 weeks’ time I’ll be heading off for a week in Manly Beach.
I booked it a couple of months ago when it dawned on me that unless I booked something from my timeshare before June 30, I’d be losing lots of points I’d paid for.
Not on my watch!
Since then, this holiday has been comfortably filed in “the future” part of my brain. Looks like I’m going to have to get cracking and work out some fun things to do while I’m there. I’ve already done the Bridge climb the last time I was here – 12 years ago when I brought the boys with me.
Surely there are some good things to do in Sydney? Any ideas?
Who needs a good slap:Flight Centre.
It’s been a week since I walked to their shop in Southland, only to be told that they only accept appointments. WTF????
Anyway, Olga (the woman monitoring the line outside the door) asked me where I wanted to go, then asked me to email all the particulars of Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Santiago, and Easter Island and she’d get right back to me.
It’s been a week, as I said before. I think we can all agree that I’ve been patient. I sent a follow-up email this morning and have heard nothing all day. Maybe it’s time for another travel agent.
(Starting to wonder if this holiday is cursed…)
What has made me smile:the dogs when they saw Dad.
While Mum’s in the rehab hospital with her fractured pelvis, I’ve decided to have Dad around for dinner every week, mainly to give him something different to do while he’s Home Alone.
On Monday night he opened the front gate so quietly that the little woofs didn’t hear him. The joy when I opened the front door and they realised that someone they like was there!
What’s top of my mind: My trip to Antarctica is ON, baby!!!
After hearing nothing from my travel company despite repeated attempts from me to contact them, a simple request for info on their Facebook page did the trick. The trip is on, I’ve made a further payment and I’m now waiting on quotes from travel agents for flights and a possible side trip to Easter Island.
Easter island looks EXPENSIVE … even the flight there and back from Santiago will probably cost a thousand dollars, but hey. I’m only going to do it once. (If I do it…)
If anyone has a recommendation for a good travel agent – preferably in Melbourne in the south-eastern/bayside suburbs – I’d love to hear from you. I’m waiting on a quote from Flight Centre, but it wouldn’t hurt to get ideas from other people too.
Where I’ve been: to visit Dad.
A few days ago Mum had another fall and was carted off to hospital. At first we thought she’d broken her hip, but instead, she’s fractured her pelvis. Not as bad as a broken hip, true, but it’ll still take a long while to mend.
She won’t be home for weeks, so Dad is now needing to be looked after. He can look after himself physically – (though he asked my sister how to cook pasta and he wasn’t kidding…), but he’ll be feeling it mentally as Mum stays away in rehab. He’s never lived on his own.
Where I’m going:To Coles for one more week.
Dave from Strong Money Australia put me onto using Flybuys to get free groceries. Once he explained how he and his partner do it, I signed up straight away and waited to get the offer. I’m on my third week of buying $50 of groceries from Coles. One more week and I get a $50 free voucher for Coles groceries.
It’s fun perusing the catalogue, then going shopping with my calculator to make sure I’m not spending way over $50 each time. The only annoying thing about it is when I go to Aldi to do the rest of my shopping and I find out they’re selling their cauliflower for $1.50 less than what I just paid for one at Coles. D’Oh!
Most people have heard of The Day of the Triffids – one of the best sci-fi books ever written. I absolutely love John Wyndham’s writing. His ideas are still so fresh and even though his language may have dated – it’s very English 1950’s – I’ll challenge anyone to a bout of fisticuffs who says he’s a bad writer.
The Midwich Cuckoos isn’t one of my favourites to be honest – that honour goes to The Chrysalids, which is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a fundamentalist Christian town which frowns upon any physical aberrations. So how will they cope with a difference that cannot be seen? Oh, how I loved this novel!
Triffids and Choccy are also very good. I have a feeling that if I read The Trouble With Lichen when I was older, I would probably have liked it more. Even though I haven’t read it for decades, I still sometimes find myself thinking about it…
Anyway, back to The Midwich Cuckoos! It’s an interesting premise – for 12 hours or so everyone in a little English town falls unconscious and the town is cut off from everyone. Once the ‘blackout’ finishes, everyone appears to be fine – except that every woman of childbearing age is pregnant. Who are these babies and where/how have they come from?
There’s a limited series on Stan. I’m halfway through and enjoying it very much, though I don’t know why they’ve changed the character of Dr Zellaby from male to female. There doesn’t seem to be any narrative reason. Anyway, that’s a small quibble.
Say what you like about Liane Moriarty, the woman can write a cracking good yarn! I read this novel in 2 days.
We often hear about women getting stalked by an ex-boyfriend, but what if the genders are switched?
What I’m listening to:Casefile.
I’ve let my podcasts mount up a bit, so when I was working on my quilt today I listened to a couple of episodes of Casefile. One was absolutely crazy. Another female stalker – be careful out there, fellas!
What I’m eating: Twisties.
Well, it wasn’t exactly my fault. I had just over $1 to make up my $50 shop and small packets of Twisties were going for $1.10.
I can’t lie. It was really nice settling down with my book on the couch and munching through them.
What I’m planning:shopping for thermal underduds.
I HATE the cold. Hate it with a passion. Rumour has it that Antarctica is on the chilly side, even in the middle of summer.
Sometime soon, I’ll have to go shopping for thermals, a good weatherproof coat and some gloves that will let me still use my iPhone to take photos.
Anyone know where I should start looking?
Who needs a good slap:Me.
Because I’ve been working a fair bit, I’ve fallen behind on the quilt-a-long schedule for the crazy 5,000+ piece quilt. I’ve done two big blocks today, so if I keep on plugging away like that I’ll get back to where I’m meant to be.
A couple of people have finished already and have posted their quilt tops of Facebook. It’s spurred me on!
What has made me smile:Having a few days off.
I’ve been working full-time for almost a month, but the school’s main campus has exams this week and so there are more teachers available to look after classes. Far less work for CRT’s.
I have to confess that my lazy mornings reading and inter-webbing on the couch is something I treasure. So do the dogs. It’s not a bad thing to be reminded of why I retired in the first place…
What’s top of my mind: Helping Tom30 with his house deposit.
The boys know that I’m not in a position to be The Bank of Mum and Dad when they’re looking to put a deposit down on a home. My gift to them is the same gift my parents have given my brother, my sister and me – to be financially independent in their old age so they’re not a financial drain on their kids.
Tom30 has floated the idea that I might help out… I’ve said no to hints that I might go guarantor or that I might lend a sizeable chunk of money. If he was an only child it might be different, but with any help given having to be multiplied by 4? Forget it.
However, he asked if I’d be prepared to lend him the money to pay off his car at the end of the year when he’ll be in a serious position to start looking. It’ll be around the 5K mark by then. I told him I’d be prepared to do this for him. I know without a doubt that he’ll pay me back, and having this debt wiped from his liabilities would mean that the banks would look at him slightly more favourably.
It’s such a fine line between wrapping them in cotton wool and weakening them by helping too much, or not helping enough and putting them behind the 8 ball! He doesn’t know that I’m saving his $50/week board to give back to him when he moves out.
I don’t know – I’m happy that I’m in a position where I can do this for the boys. I really wish I could help them more, but I’m definitely not prepared to put my own financial standing at risk. I’ve worked too hard for that!
(The boys’ father suggested to Tom30 that instead of borrowing the money from him, he should ask my father for a loan… “He has HEAPS of money.” Wow. Seriously??? Every now and then I get a little reminder as to why I left him all those years ago.)
Where I’ve been:5 minutes in the most stressful place ever.
Every teacher in a school gets a set of keys to use. We lock most classrooms after every period, especially those rooms like music rooms and computer labs that have expensive equipment in them. We all know that we have to guard those keys with our lives. If a set of keys go missing, then every single lock has to be changed in the entire school, along with issuing new keys to every single staff member. In our school, there are over 200 people who work here.
Imagine how expensive that would be?
At the end of the day yesterday I handed in my laptop and my lanyard and walked to my car. I’d just started the engine when the principal of the campus phoned me.
“Frogdancer, you’ve handed in the lanyard with no key fob.”
My blood went cold. This meant that the fob had fallen off somewhere. The classroom I’d been working in didn’t need to be locked, so I hadn’t looked for the fob at the end of the day. It could be anywhere – and anyone could’ve found it. Shit…
Luckily, the class I’d had after lunch for a double period was so quiet that I’d barely got up from my desk to walk around. I’d had a full lunchtime in the staff room because I’d had recess yard duty that day. The areas where it could ossibly have fallen off were pretty limited. I told the principal where I’d been teaching and he said he’d call me back with any news.
I kept driving. I felt sick with stress. This is the one thing that everyone dreads. Why am I doing this? I don’t need this stress in my life! Is avoiding Sequence of Returns Risk worth it? I’ve pretty much covered my share of David28’s wedding. Does Tom30 really need me to loan him the money for his car? Maybe I should just go back to my beautiful retirement life?
A couple of minutes later the phone rang. He’d found the keyfob on my chair. It must’ve fallen off as I bent over to pick up my bag and laptop at the end of the day.
PHEW!!!! I drove home, listening to my audiobook and feeling like all was well with the world.
This morning when I came in, the receptionist in the office said that they’d noticed that every single lanyard had dodgy clips on them. They’ve fixed them. So maybe my panic-stricken moment was actually a gift to the school…?
Still – how great is it that I’m in a position to instantly decide whether or not to keep working? For anyone still working on getting your F-You fund together – keep going! It’s worth it. The stress I felt until I got the second phone call would’ve been so much worse if I’d not had the option to walk away if I wanted to.
Where I’m going:to the supermarket.
I’ve accepted a Flybuys quest to spend $50/week for a month at Coles to earn a $50 voucher. Sounds like free food to me! Once I publish this post, I’ll have a look at the weekly specials and work out what I’m going to buy this week.
Once I spend $50, I’ll pick up the rest of what we need from Aldi.
What I’m watching:a loom video on the trenches in WWI.
I’ve just come out of a year 9 history class where they watched a video made by their teacher before they were to go on and complete some work. I found it interesting – my great-grandfather fought for the English in those trenches.
I told them his story. How, as a young married father of two he did the patriotic thing and signed up for the war. He was allowed some time to go home when his wife was due to give birth to their third child. It was an awful labour – the baby was 13 lb/6 kg and both he and his mother nearly died. My great grandfather overstayed his leave until he was sure they’d both live.
When he reported back late for duty, they sent him to the front lines as a punishment. He was dead in a week.
I’m enjoying this book, even though I’ve never tackled embroidery and I don’t intend to try! I remember going to my Mum’s cousin’s house as a child and seeing embroidery literally EVERYWHERE. It put me off.
Clearly, the author visited Winchester cathedral and noticed the kneeling pads and cushions, and researched how and when they were made.
I just finished this audiobook this morning on my way to work. It’s a marathon 16 hours worth of listening time. I enjoyed the story. Now the plan is to get back to the podcasts that have been stacking up! Then, once I whip them into shape, then I’ll borrow another audiobook.
What I’m eating: leftover goulash.
A few nights ago I made the most delectable goulash using a Skinnymixer’s recipe in the slow cooker. There was enough left over for two serves. Tom30 said he’d probably buy a pizza tonight, so Ryan27 and I will be so happy to tuck into the rest of the goulash!
What I’m planning:a delicious meal for tonight!
Who needs a good slap:
Whoever designed the dodgy clips on the lanyards. If my hair wasn’t already going grey, it would’ve started when I got that first phone call from the principal.
What has made me smile:9H.
I taught 9 of these kids in year 7 and I haven’t caught up with most of them since I’ve been back. It was so lovely to see them all again.
It’s especially nice that they’re in a great class who are all quietly working. The loudest sound in the room is my keyboard as I’m typing this.
This class is a CRT’s dream!
Dad joke of the day:
I don’t know why some people insist on using fractions instead of decimals.
People who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that I like to keep track of things that I want to achieve. Usually, I draw up a basic chart and colour in the days that I succeed in my goals, though I’ve branched out to use a widget for one of the challenges I’ve set myself.
So how am I going so far this year?
The first challenge is the one I cleverly did to harness an activity I simply can’t live without to a bill that I absolutely hate paying.
If you cast your eyes to the sidebar of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve been progressing pretty well with my “Earn my rates back by reading” challenge. I set this goal in 2021 when I was outraged at having to pay $1,800 a year to the local council just for being able to live in my own house. Oh sure, the council provides garbage pickups every week and maintenance on public areas, but it still seemed like a lot of money.
BUT things changed when it occurred to my mighty intellect that if I utilise the local library instead of buying books, I can satiate my reading addiction and, in effect, ‘earn’ back my rates by using the books that my rates have helped to buy. It took 8 months to ‘earn’ back that $1,800, so I set my sights higher for 2022.
This time, I’ve included the council fees for the dogs in addition to the rates for my house. In September last year, I began chipping away at the grand total of $2,200 for council fees.
Going back to work as a casual teacher has really impacted the time I have for reading, but I’m pleased to report that I only have $333 to go. That’s roughly 10 more books to go before I reach my goal.
I’m glad I set myself this challenge, not only for the satisfaction I get from succeeding at reaching a goal. It’s also opened me up to reading books I might not have come across, so it’s added to my quality of life to a huge degree. I follow some prominent authors on Twitter and every now and then they’ll either spruik a book that they’re releasing, or they’ll recommend a great book that they’ve just finished reading.
It’s a simple matter to flick across to the library website to see if they have it. In a surprisingly high number of times – they do. And it’s awesome.
Am I really earning back my rates by doing this? Of course not! But it’s a bit of fun. Retirement and reaching financial independence are all about having fun, baby!
My CRT teaching chart is the newest addition. I designed this in my post about deciding to pivot and go back to teaching – not as a ‘real’ job but as a CRT (casual relief teacher.) I knew that if I was dragging myself back to work, getting up before it was daylight, and selling my sweet, sweet freedom that I’ve cherished so much; I needed to chip away at ‘paying for’ things that I’ve bought.
I knew that would keep me motivated.
Every payday since then, I’ve entered the amounts onto the chart and I’ve seen my progress. It’s very satisfying to be able to cross things off the list and move on to the next line.
To be honest, I never expected that I’d have as much work as I’ve been getting. Schools are reeling with the huge numbers of staff getting sick from either covid or the flu. So far this term I’ve had 3 straight weeks of full-time work and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. And I’m only teaching at one school!
The other CRTs tend to work at a few different schools, so it’s been interesting hearing what other schools are like. I think I’m on a pretty sweet deal working here – the kids are beautiful and working here is usually an absolute pleasure.
Even if a kid is naughty, it’s always a silly teenage naughtiness, not a nasty thing. I can certainly live with that.
I’ve decided that unless something really changes, I’ll accept as much work as I can get from the school. They definitely need CRTs, I’m putting the money to good use and after all, the school absolutely saved our financial bacon by giving me a job when the boys were small. The admin was incredible when one of my boys needed a lot of extra support due to depression in his teens. It seems like the right thing to do to help cover the classes while people are sick.
I’m just keeping my mask on during the whole day. I’d prefer not to get the flu or covid if I can help it.
The No-Spend Days chart.
I’ve been keeping this chart for years. It was one of the first things I wrote about when I started this blog. It came about because it dawned on me that no matter how frugal a person wants to be, no one can avoid spending money. Sooner or later food has to be bought, the car needs petrol or your kid needs new shoes.
Trying not to spend money is an exercise that inevitably ends in failure.
But what if I tried to restrict the days in the week that I spend money on?
Instead of letting money dribble from my wallet whenever I felt like spending it – what would happen if I became far more intentional about WHEN I spent money? I’m a naturally frugal person, except when I go on holidays, so restricting the dollar amounts wasn’t a particular issue for me. But when I started bundling up my spending so that I only waved the credit card around 3 days per week or less… a couple of things happened.
I saved some money. Anything that was an impulse buy on a day when I was trying not to spend money got put off. “I’ll buy that tomorrow,” I’d think. Usually, what was an impulse buy on one day was totally forgotten about by the next. A little more money stayed in my bank account.
The simple act of keeping the chart meant that I had to write it down. If it was a silly waste of money like buying a Caramello Koala when I was marking a stack of essays, I sometimes wouldn’t buy it. Every time, I was glad the next day when I woke up. I’d saved a precious square on my chart!
This chart has also come in handy when I wanted to check on when I’d bought something, such as a computer, the little woofs’ vaccinations, or when I’d last had the car serviced. Every now and then I’ve been pleased that I had the chart to refer to.
It’s become part of the lexicon of this house.
“Mum, we’re out of ham. Can you get some more?”
“I’ll do an Aldi shop tomorrow, babe. Today’s a no-spend day.” Everyone knows what I’m talking about, and we’re all good with it.
Keeping track of personal challenges like this definitely works for me. If you’re still reading this, maybe something like this will work for you too. The saying “What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed” has a lot of truth to it.
Like I said above, if nothing else, it’s a bit of fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
A few days ago someone asked me if the rising prices that seem to be hitting everything from food to haircuts was the reason why I was picking up so much CRT work. The question took me a little by surprise because this hasn’t been the reason at all.**
The conversation around the table then shifted to sharing sad tales of how our lives have already started to be impacted by things getting more expensive. I kept pretty quiet because no one likes a know-it-all. But I wondered if people might be interested in a post where I share some of the strategies that I’ve used over the years to help us get the most bounce per ounce in our grocery shopping.
I picked groceries because I think this is the main area where people can stretch their dollars. There are so many different ways here to tweak how and where we spend our money to keep more of it in our wallets. I know that once I got the other bills under control, grocery shopping was where I was able to keep finding ways to stretch our dollars further. These strategies have now become habits.
Over the years, as my financial situation improved, I’ve allowed some relaxation in some areas of our grocery spending. But the good thing about knowing how to stretch the dollars is that, if you ever need to, you can immediately tighten your spending up again because you already know how to.
The control lies with you. There’s power in that.
The two main ways to save money on groceries are to:
Shop smarter, and
The best way to save money on food is to (obviously) pay as little as possible for it. Shopping the specials and stocking up on items that have a long ‘use-by’ is a winning strategy.
If you’re feeding your family on food that has been purchased at a discount, obviously that means that more dollars stay in your pocket. The way I ramp up this is to have a store of food that I’ve bought cheaply… in bulk.
I’ve always had a store of food and other things that we regularly use at home. The habit of doing this started when I was a stay-at-home parent with many small mouths to feed. I’ve always been a long-term thinker, so it just made sense to stock up on items when they were on special, knowing that it meant that over time, I’d be feeding my family for less money per serve.
Yes, I’m that person who has multiples of the same things in their trolley. My pantry in the kitchen looks like anyone else’s, but open my ‘zombie apocalypse’ cupboard in the laundry and it’s a different story.
Currently, there are around 20 tins of different legumes; 30 tins of sardines for the little woofs; around 6 cartons of UHT milk; 3 boxes of tissues; 3 slabs of diced tinned tomatoes (my home-grown tomatoes were awful this year – normally I’d have heaps bagged up in the freezer); 2 huge bags of rice; around 20kgs of bread flour for bread rolls and pizzas; lots of different sorts of tea bags and dried home-grown herbal tea leaves; lots of toilet paper; dried red lentils, peas, and chickpeas; hand sanitiser; garbage bags and baking paper; red wine; ground coffee and a heap of other things.
When you buy multiples of an item that you’ll eat, you can then spread the savings out to magnify the savings. One tin of diced tomatoes at 50% off will save you, say, 50c. Buying 10 tins will save you $5.****
Over time, and with lots of different grocery items, those savings add up. Given enough time, those savings add up substantially.
I’m guessing that most people who read this post will have enough money to immediately start taking advantage of staples by buying them in bulk when they’re on special. For those of us in that position, then the main inhibitor on the size of our stash of groceries will be the amount of storage that we have available. No point stocking up on 4 slabs of toilet paper if you’ve got nowhere to put them! No one wants to be tripping over stacks of tins and packages in the hallway. as we make our way to the kitchen. So the size of our cupboards/shelves and other spots will be our guide.
If, however, you’re on an income with not much disposable money, storage isn’t usually the main issue. Instead, it’s gathering together the money to actually start buying extras of the groceries that your family uses. A store of extra groceries like this takes a fair bit of time to build up because you might only be able to buy 1 or 2 extra things, instead of 5 or 10. Sometimes, buying even a few extra things can be a real stretch. I know – I’ve definitely been there.
If this is your situation, then it helps to keep in mind that even buying ONE extra item at a great price is helping your overall situation. It might not move the needle much, but every tiny good decision is a step forward. Looking long-term, which is what I tend to do, many tiny good decisions can move you a long way.
And if you’re moving a long way, then as time goes on your position will improve and you can then take larger steps. That’s what happened with me.
An unexpected advantage of having a home ‘supermarket’ came to light during the pandemic. In the lockdowns, especially before the vaccinations came around, having these stores meant that we weren’t forced to go out and mingle with people. We were able to stay at home for far longer without being the slightest bit deprived.
I really loved that unexpected benefit of having a store of staples available.
Now, you can buy cheap food and store it away until the cows come home, but if you’re not actually using it, then you’re deluding yourself. Reducing food waste is the second essential part of stretching our grocery dollars.
I remember when I was at home with the kids, back when they were really little. I saw an ‘Oprah’ show where she had an efficiency expert come in. They were looking at food waste in random people’s houses.
He was going through a woman’s fridge and throwing food from her fridge crisper and pantry shelves into a garbage bag. He said something like, “Every time you don’t use food and have to throw it away, you may as well cut out the middleman and throw $50 notes straight into the trash.”
That made me sit up straight. He was absolutely right.
Due to my little family being on the bare bones of our ar##s anyway, our food waste was already pretty small. I couldn’t afford to waste much. But that remark made me redouble my efforts. Every time I was tempted to throw perfectly good food away, I’d see actual money being scraped into the bin.
It was more than flesh and blood could stand.
A few years later, when I decided I needed to grow some of our own food to help cut down on artificial additives in our food, the anti-waste thing REALLY came into its own.
A definite food chain developed. First humans. Then dogs. Then chooks. Then the worm farm. Then compost. Finally – the garbage bin.
Hardly anything went out the door. Our food stayed here, either nourishing our bodies or nourishing our garden, which in turn produced food to nourish us. It was an almost closed cycle.
That cycle, minus the chooks, continues today, even after we moved to The Best House in Melbourne. It’s extremely rare that the boys and I throw food away. We try and use up everything we buy, grow and make.
As the boys grew and some of them moved away and our household became smaller, sometimes we began to eat the same meal two nights running. The amount of food that would once be used up for one night to feed five of us can easily be stretched to feed three adults over two nights.
Any smaller servings are great to throw in the freezer and be used for a quick lunch a few days later. Today’s lunch of bolognese came straight from last night’s dinner. I think it was even tastier the second time around.
Speaking of small servings, sometimes I have steamed veggies left over from dinner. I have a container in the freezer that I throw them in. Every couple of months I make chicken stock paste and veggie stock paste… SO MUCH TASTIER AND CHEAPER than using the cubes and liquid stock from the supermarket. Each batch uses enough fresh veggies (and chicken, if I’m making a chicken stock paste) to fill up a thermomix jug. Of course, I pull anything that needs using up out of the crisper drawer from the fridge, but having the frozen ‘waste’ veggies from previous meals means that I’m using up ingredients that need to be used and saving some other veggies, that may be fresher, to be included in another meal later on.
Every little bit helps.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the two strategies of buying grocery specials in bulk and reducing food wastage as much as possible are the bedrock of being able to stretch grocery spending further. I know that to me it became almost like a game, where every time I used up something, found a great deal and bought up big, or made something stretch further, it was fun.
Let’s face it, the road to financial independence isn’t quick. It takes many years to get there. Anything that helps to get us closer and is like a game has GOT to be a win!
** Sequence of Return Risk and volunteering to help pay for a wedding are the reasons I’m doing casual relief teaching. 🙂
**** Of course, being me, I was going to keep the maths simple!
Dad joke of the day:
What’s it called when a chameleon can’t change its colours anymore?
What’s top of my mind: I haven’t heard from the company that has my deposit for Antarctica in December.
Yeah. I’m not happy.
I’ve repeatedly emailed, both to the people from the company who were organising it last year and through their official website. Yesterday I tagged the company on Twitter, asking them to please contact me to either confirm my booking or to refund my deposit.
Fortunately, the deposit isn’t huge, but all the same, it’s MY money. They are the same company that I went to North Korea with in 2018 and they were fantastic. The difference this time is staggering.
As of midday Wednesday, there’s still been no reply.
Not happy Jan.
Where I’ve been:to the Vet.
Every week for the last 4 weeks I’ve been getting home from work on a Monday and driving Poppy to the vet to get some anti-arthritis injections. She and Jeffrey are nearly 9 years old and it’s recommended that dogs over 8 get these injections to stave off arthritis.
Jeff has been having them for a while now and his limp is much better. For Miss Pop, it’s more of a preventative measure.
They have a series of 4 weekly injections at the start, then every 3 months or so they have another one. It’s an expense that I hope will be well worth it to give them a good quality of life as they get older. They deserve it.
Where I’m going:to a CPR course after lunch.
The year 9s are doing a series of short courses at the moment – things like a barista course, food safety and CPR. By the end of the day, I might have a CPR certificate!
What I’m watching:Celebrity Apprentice Australia.
I haven’t seen anything on a commercial tv station for ages and I’m gobsmacked by how many ads they run in each commercial break. There are about 6 or 7 ads in a row. Every time.
Oof. Even with catch-up tv the ads are pretty full-on. Over the last 2 nights I feel like I’ve been assaulted by 1,400 ads.
How I love Anne Tyler’s writing! I’m going through an Anne Tyler phase, with 4 or 5 of her novels piled up beside my bed, waiting to be read.
In the foreword to this one, she wrote that, (at least back in 2014), it was her favourite book that she’d written. Who knows – it may have changed by now, but I went into this story with high hopes. I wasn’t let down.
I actually became very emotional when I finished this one. If Ryan27 wasn’t in the room with me, I probably would’ve howled like a baby. As it was, it was touch and go as to whether I’d cry.
What I’m listening to: My son’s podcast.
Friend of the pod is now on its second episode. To be honest, the first ep wasn’t their best work, but I really enjoyed listening to the second ep this morning on the drive into work. The link I gave you is for the second episode.
For friends of this blog – try and guess which silly boy is Evan25!! Is it Will or is it Connor???? (The answer is given before the end of the episode.)
What I’m eating:Food. I’m eating food.
I woke up really late today. My stupid alarm didn’t go off so I woke 20 minutes later than I should have. Interestingly, I was moving so fast that I left the house a few minutes earlier than I usually do.
Today’s lunch is a homemade bread roll, as usual, but instead of home-grown lettuce with cheese, it’s peanut butter.
Much quicker to make.
What I’m planning:The girls’ weekend.
I booked the accommodation for July and all of the girls are in! In order to get the place for the weekend that I wanted, I had to book 4 nights, so guess who’s having a little holiday at the end of July? I’ll be at the place for a couple of nights before the others turn up.
It wasn’t what I originally intended, but I think getting there early will be a good thing. On Friday night the apartment will be warm, I’ll have dinner ready and waiting and it’ll be warm and snug and cozy.
Who needs a good slap:My iPhone.
Seriously, when I click “all weekdays” for an alarm, I expect it to stick to the agreement. I was galloping around like an idiot this morning.
What has made me smile: Getting a coffee from a junior barista.
Yesterday I was in the barista course, watching as the kids were learning how to make espresso shots. When they moved onto making Long Blacks, a boy brought one to me with such pride. I’d mentioned the day before that this was my coffee of choice and he’d remembered.
Long Black, no sugar. That’s the stuff!
I tell you, having a fresh coffee brought to you while you’re working is wonderful.