Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er) in Australia from the female perspective.

Month: December 2018

How did I go on the ‘No Spend’ days this year?

One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was one about how I make my spending more intentional by using a simple chart I keep in the cloud.

Simply put:

1. Detail every dollar spent – easy because I spend almost exclusively through my credit card. It’s the little cash things that I have to be careful to put down straight away!

2. Every week that has 3 or less ‘no spend’ days gets to be a Silver Week. This is my first full year of tracking my spending like this, so the 2018 total is the benchmark that I’ll measure future years from.

That’s it. Can’t get more simple than that.

This chart works on pretty basic psychology. If I want to earn a silver square, I have to be very intentional about which days I choose to spend money on. This means that on most weeks I bunch up my spending, instead of lazily spreading it out throughout the week. I might do a shopping trip on the way home from work, where I’ll stop in at Costco to buy fuel and then pop in for some dog food, a roast chook and some veggies; then I’ll swing by the chicken warehouse to buy chicken necks for the dogs and some other meat for us; and then if we need a top-up from the supermarket I’ll stop by Aldi. Everything’s done on the one day!

As you can see, in 2018 I had 28 weeks where I restricted my spending to fall into the category of a Silver Week. I don’t think that’s too bad… it’s a little more than half. December was a very spendy month. I was pretty well exhausted by the end of the year and I think I spent more on lunches this month than I did for the last 2 years combined!

The next job is to go through the chart and fill out my yearly spreadsheet of all my expenses. Considering I spent 50K on all of the garden renovations that I did this year, 2018 hasn’t exactly been cheap! (And there’ll be more to come in 2019… yikes!) But these are expenses which only have to be borne once and will reap dividends in the future.

I won’t lie – it’s tedious to run through the chart and add up all the figures. But it’s essential to know where my money is going as I head ever closer to retirement. I need to know precisely how much money I need before I give up work. The 4% Rule will only take me so far…

 

BOOKing myself in for next year.

How I hate to miss a goal.

I set a goal to read 80 books this year. Actually, in my first flush of enthusiasm, I set it at 100, but then when my mad maths skillz kicked in and I realised that was 2 books a week, I brought it down. Once I’m retired I could do that no worries, but nowadays with the job and the commute and life itself, I thought 80 might be more manageable.

But clearly not.

Ryan24 said to me, “Why don’t you just read some Dr Suess books? You’d reach 80 by lunchtime!”

I have 2 books on the go, but I think I’ll leave them to start off 2019’s reading target with a (slight) headstart.

I read mainly novels, with the bulk of the non-fiction books being about North Korea. I did my research both before and after I went there earlier this year. (Links to my posts about North Korea are at the end, for those who are interested in peeking inside the bubble.)

But seeing as this is the FI/RE blog and not the personal blog, which ‘Money’ books did I read this year and what did I think of them?

  • The Quest of the Simple Life – Dawson

I heard about this one from The Simple Dollar. This book was written over a century ago and is the autobiography of a man who was living, working and raising a family in the middle of London and his realisation that he wants something more out of life – something simpler. It’s not a ‘personal finance’ book as such, but it’s interesting to peek back into the past. All those tiny house/homesteading/frugal living blogs being written at the moment aren’t coming up with new ideas! Here’s a link to Project Gutenberg for a free pdf. Never say that Frogdancer Jones hasn’t given you anything!

  • First-Time Investor: Grow and Protect Your Money – Merriman

Honestly, I don’t even remember this one. I gave it a one-star rating on Goodreads so there’s clearly a reason why it’s slipped from my mind. No linky-love for this one.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to preorder this one! I love the original ‘Millionaire Next Door’, so I was very keen to read the update. I liked that the FIRE movement was mentioned quite a bit and it was pleasing to see that the tried-and-true ideas fleshed out in the original still hold true today. Seiko watches rule!

This was one of the books I bought to research which book I was going to give my sons and nieces for Christmas this year. These guys have a podcast on property investing, but this book is primarily about budgeting and keeping track of your money.

It wasn’t really what I was looking for. Their tracking system was great if that’s what you’re looking for, but it was so involved to set up that I knew that it would turn the kids off ever getting a plan for their money. This book is more for people who are already self-motivated to do something about their finances, not someone who’s just dipping their big toe into the water.

I’d recommend this book to someone who doesn’t mind the initial slog of setting up a system that will clearly be very beneficial as time goes on. Will I do it? Nah. Too many numerals for me…

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Wealth – Whittacker and Whittacker

This is the book I ended up buying for the 19 – 26-year-old sons and nieces. I wrote a review here.

Many people are familiar with the blog Freedom is Groovy, written by Mr and Mrs Groovy. I love this blog, as they’re people in the same age bracket as myself, who also started late and who have really made things move and shake as they’ve gone along the path to FI.

This is a good book to read, particularly if you live in the US. The writing style is clear and conversational, so the information gets absorbed easily.

  • The Mandibles : A Family 2029 – 2047 – Shriver

I read this novel when I was in North Korea. This is a fascinating look at the breakdown of society when the US has borrowed so much money that it defaults on its loans. If you know even a smattering of how the financial system works, this is a gripping read. Even though I read it back in April, I still think about incidents and characters. It’s worth the time to read this.

I wrote a review here. It’s rare for a novel to have this much financial information in it.

Oh, how I loved this book! After I read it I bought another one to give to my brother-in-law for Christmas. It’s all about growing up in Australia in the 1960s and ’70s. I’ll be writing a ‘Lessons from Literature’ post about it soon, because there are so many observations he makes about money, finances and how things were different back then.

It’s his memoir. It brought back so many wonderful memories, but also brought up things I had never heard before. I had no idea, for example, that Australian women had to get their husbands’ written permission to get a passport right up until 1982…

Yikes!

Again, it’s not a finance book as such, but there’s a lot about money woven in.

********

That’s it for 2018 ‘Finance’ books.

I’m looking forward to reading ‘Atomic Habits’ by Clear early next year. I got the school library to order it in, so with a bit of luck, it should be available when I get back. There are a few bloggers releasing books next year too, so I look forward to reading them. Of course, I’ll be reading with an eye towards which book should be the next one I purchase for the kids’ Christmas presents.

I’m setting my next Goodreads target at 80 books again. Why not? Though seriously, if I stopped reading blogs, Facebook and Twitter I’d probably be able to get 150 books under my belt!

Oh! Nearly forgot. Here are the links to the North Korea posts I did, with all the photos and info of what we did when we were away.

Dancing With Frogs. This is my personal blog, where I write about anything and everything, including travel. I wrote exclusively about my China and North Korea trip in the entries from April 2018 – September 2018. Just look at the drop-down menu at the side and you’ll be able to find them. Lots of photos and stories.

On this blog, I wrote 4 pieces, summarising the more ‘finance/advertising’ type of things that I saw.

#1: Where Leaders Are Larger Than Life.

#2: Where A Picture Says A Thousand Words.

#3: Teach The Children Well.

#4: The Bigger, The Better!

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s all make 2019 a year to remember, for all the right reasons!

 

 

In defence of Santa – from a Value-ist.

I read a tweet from Angela an hour ago about how her family doesn’t “do” Santa at Christmas and as a Santa enthusiast, it got me thinking and remembering. Angela and her family have thought about this and haven’t made their decision lightly, but I have a differing point of view. Christmases here are very different now, but when the boys were kids and money was tight, it was a challenge to make Christmas morning magical. And, as I’ll tell you in a second, yesterday I discovered that it paid off big time.

As a single parent, when the boys were small, money was tight. I went back to full-time work when the boys were Tom10, David8, Ryan6 and Evan5. When I was on the sole parents’ pension as it was called then, I was paying a mortgage and the bills and we were living pretty much hand-to-mouth. We were on roughly 18K/year, of which nearly half was going to the mortgage, so there was little room for fripperies in the budget.

But… I’m a Value-ist. I was a Value-ist before the term was coined. I’ll scrimp and scrape to save money for my family to survive, but if there is something that I see adds huge value to our lives, I’ll spend the money to achieve it.

Santa was definitely one of those things.

When Tom26 was Tom9, he came home from school in the middle of the year and said to me, “Joe Lunchbucket said to me that Santa wasn’t real.” Now, Tom is a communicative boy, so I hastily got him away from his brothers by suggesting we go into the backyard for a chat.

We walked down to the fig tree, where I asked him whether he really wanted to know. He said yes. I looked him right in the eye, smiled and said, “That’s right. I’m Santa.”

Tom9 gasped and said, “NO WAY!” To be frank, I wasn’t expecting this reaction.

I laughed and said, “What do you mean?”

“YOU can’t be Santa! You couldn’t afford it!!!”

After convincing him that yes, I was indeed Santa, he became struck with guilt.

“Oh no. I’ve been telling all the boys to ask for the expensive things for Christmas so you wouldn’t have to get them.”

Oh, my baby. That’s real love right there. And fiscal responsibility. No wonder he became an accountant! That remark went straight to my heart. I laughed, hugged him and we had The Talk. The Talk about how knowing about Santa means that you’re now with the grown-ups and we NEVER spoil Santa for little kids by blabbing it out just to make ourselves feel important. We keep the secret so they get to enjoy it just as we did.

Having all of your children caught up in the magic of Santa is special. But it’s also special when your older ones start joining in with keeping the magic alive for the little ones.  When they help the little ones with the spelling on their Santa lists, when they distract them when we’re shopping so I can smuggle a present past them, and when they all yell out, “Thank you Santa Claus!!” and the older one/s turn and smile with you, or give you a secret hug and whisper, “Thanks Mum.”

To be honest, I had an advantage on my side, in that the boys were little when money was ultra-tight. This meant that I was able to get away with quantity over quality. I knew that little kids have no idea what things cost. They just get excited by piles of things. So every year each boy would get one “big” present. Something that they wanted that was ultra-fun or ultra-pricey that they needed AND wanted. Then there’d be a present or two that was medium exciting, like computer games (often bought second-hand) or smaller toys. The rest required ingenuity.

I created traditions.

  1. Every year Santa brought bubble mix. Part of Christmas morning was that we’d all go out into the backyard and blow bubbles and see who could blow the biggest ones. We’d laugh as the dogs tried to catch them. It was fun and cost about $1/child.
  2. Every year Santa brought those mini packets of Kellogs cereals. The kids LOVED these, as normally it was just home-brand wheat bix and cornflakes in the pantry.
  3. You know those packets of chocolate gold coins that you can get from $2 shops? My kids were in the money every Christmas.
  4. Santa was also a bit of a fashionista. If the kids needed new bathers, t-shirts or the like, they’d go into the pile. Usually, each child had their Christmas Day outfit given to them, so they’d be all dressed up in their best for the day. I was going to buy them anyway, so why not add it to the mix? It all looks impressive.

But the biggest savings hack was shopping at garage sales. The little presents, and to be honest, some of the really big ones too, were bought here. The boys were away with their father every second weekend, so from about September onwards I’d drive around and visit garage sales when the kids weren’t with me. People just want to get rid of things their kids have outgrown, so I’d pick up toys and other things for absolute pennies on the dollar that they would have been when new.  My kids never had any idea that a huge percentage of their Santa gifts were pre-loved.

All that mattered to them was the magic.

Yesterday I listened to a podcast that Tom26 was on. He and a friend were talking about all things Christmas – the carols, the commercialism, the memories and, of course, Santa. Tom26 brought up the Santa reveal story I’ve already shared with you, but he also said this:

“As a young kid, Christmas is everything. And the one thing I’ll say about my mother who, I think, will end up hearing this episode…”

“Tread carefully!!!” said his friend. (Made me laugh.)

“… My family did not grow up with any sort of money. We were really, like, dirt poor. But Christmas – Mum went above and beyond. At the time, you’re young, you don’t know, but you look back and you realise what she did. And that’s something that I cherish, looking back on.”

He went on:

“Then as you get older, as you get busier, it’s about taking a break, saying, “I’m going to put all my problems away for a second, put them in a box, and go and see friends and family. The people that matter most. And they don’t have to believe, either, (they’d touched on religion in the conversation earlier). We can just say thanks for one another on one day. The gifts really are a symbol of thanks, really, for just putting up with me (laughs), well, maybe not entirely! But also thanks for being YOU, through the thick and thin.”

The good thing about podcasts is that you can go through and get it down, word for word. I really wanted to be accurate in putting down what he said because I was so blown away with how perfectly he’s internalised the true meaning of Christmas. Family and friends – the people closest to you. The gifts you buy are only there as a symbol of how much you value those people in your life. Taking time out to be with them and acknowledging them and their importance to you.

I believe Santa lays the groundwork for this.

First, kids learn to receive.

Then they learn how to give.

Merry Christmas everyone! May your holiday season be happy and mirthful and your dinner plate always be full.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The FU Fund gets brought to the table.

I had the weirdest experience two days ago.

It was the second-last day of school. In Australia, our school year runs from January – December, so we were looking at 5 glorious weeks of summer holidays galloping towards us. First thing in the morning I walked into our staffroom and the principal was there trying to allocate extra jobs for people. The expectation is that if you’re on the highest pay grade, (like I am), you’re expected to take on another task above your teaching ones to add more value to the school.

Our principal looked at me and her eyes lit up.

“YOU can do debating!” she said.

My reaction was immediate and completely visceral. And may have been a little bit shouty.

“NOOOOO!”

She looked shocked. Understandable, because my reaction probably looked a bit over-the-top.

“But why?” she asked.

My heart was beating fast. I was suddenly in a cold sweat. All I could come up with was, “I hate debating with a passion. I’d be really shit at it. You need to find someone else.”

I reminded her of what I’d already put myself down for – Junior English help – and the conversation moved on.  Then we went into the staff end-of-year luncheon.

This function is bigger than Ben Hur. We have around 200 staff at the school and every year we have a full sit-down lunch, with speeches from staff who are leaving, the ‘Pineapple Awards’ for staff who have done stupid things over the year and a Christmas giveaway, where names are drawn out of a hat and you get some chocolates. This year Kevin Sheedy, a famous Aussie Rules footballer/coach, came and gave a short speech. He looked a little familiar but I don’t do sport. I had to be told who he was. Plus Essendon is my ex-husband’s team… yuck.

I was one of the lucky ones who had my name pulled out of the hat for the chocolates. Not being one to avoid the spotlight, I leapt out of my seat, punching the air and shouting, “YES! YES!”

Our principal laughed and said, “You’re paying for those chocolates by doing debating next year.”

“I quit!” I said and went back to my seat and the function moved on.

I was really upset. I felt like the rug had just been pulled out from under me. I sat back down and the people next to me laughed and said, “Did you put your hand up for debating next year?”

“No.”

“When did you find out about it?”

“Just now,” I replied, and my eyes started filling up with tears.

I was the teacher in charge of debating in my first year of teaching. Admittedly, the school was in the country and I was just out of teachers college, but the experience was horrendous. The first challenge is getting enough kids to fill the teams. Then you have to organise practice runs either at lunchtime or after school. When the actual debate dates are announced, there’s always kids that can’t or won’t make it, so you have to scramble around trying to fill up the spots in the team so that the good kids who are keen to do it won’t be forced to forfeit. You are always trying to pull in favours, people start to avoid eye contact when they see you coming and there’s always someone having a tantrum or making things difficult at the last minute. I vowed and dclared I would NEVER do it again.

The debates nowadays are always at night – in the opposite direction to the school than where I live. I already live a 50-minute drive from school. So I’d have really late nights and be expected to leap joyfully up and go and teach the next day.

The debates finish at around 9 or 10. But you can’t leave right away – oh no. There are always children whose parents either can’t or won’t go to the actual debate, so you have to hang around until someone comes to pick them up. (I already have this when we do our Theatre Studies rehearsals and performances, but at least that’s at school.) It’d be quicker to drop them off home, but of course you can’t drive a child anywhere without permission and honestly, perception is everything and no one wants to be letting a teenage child in their car late at night…

So after every debate, you’re hanging around for at least 30 extra minutes waiting for parents. You can’t leave kids alone to wait. Imagine if something went wrong?

This would all be ok if, as a person, you enjoy the cut and thrust of debating and you enjoy teaching these skills to students. That’s not me. A debating mentor needs to have the thrill of the debate in their blood and pass on their enthusiasm to the kids. That’s effective teaching. I know that I’d be faking it. Kids can always tell.So I was floored that I was assigned to do it.

I understood our principal’s position. The guy who’d been running it for 3 years wanted to step down from the job and it had to be filled. Fair enough. I’m the Theatre Studies teacher. It would seem to her like a perfect fit.

I sat at the table and the tears welled up. People were laughing, then when they saw I was upset they became concerned.

“What do you mean, you only heard just now? That’s terrible.”

“Go and see her after the lunch is over and sit down with her.”

“Are you ok? Surely you can do something else…?”

I got my sh*t together and sat there as the function rolled on. For the first few minutes I wallowed in self-pity, but then, for the first time, I seriously thought about FU money.

For those who’ve never heard this term before, the ‘FU’ stands for exactly what you think it does. It’s a sum of money that you save, enough so that if a boss or a job is making your life hell, you can simply say “FU” (hopefully just to yourself!) and walk away, without having to suck it up and stay in a horrible situation because you’re dependent on the pay packet to survive week-to-week.  It’s a financial cushion which isn’t big enough to actually retire on, but it’s enough to give you some breathing space while you look around for other opportunities. I first saw it coined in James Clavell’s ‘Tai Pan’ and then later I saw it on JL Collins’ blog and although I thought I’d never need it, I liked the concept.

You see, I have my FU money in a bank account. I have 3 years of expenses put away. I kept it back after I did the whole geoarbitrage thing a year ago, but I earmarked it for a buffer fund in case the sharemarket tanked after I retired. I figured I’d have that money to live off so I wouldn’t have to sell my shares while they were under valued.

But now…? I sat there, my brain whirling. I knew I hated the thought of running debating, but did I hate it so much that I’d be prepared to threaten to leave my job? You can’t threaten anything unless you’re prepared to follow through…

My gut was telling me to leave. I knew it would make my life hell. But then other thoughts intruded.

My Theatre Studies class are doing my favourite play next year – ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’ We just did the casting this week and I’m excited to be doing it. The people I work with – I love them. I’ll miss the banter every day. The rest of my allotment is English classes down in the junior school, which is fun and entertaining. I want to keep renovating the house, so I need cash flow to keep doing that. I really don’t want to dip into my savings for that, even though I could.

BUT… with my FU money and my teaching experience, I’m not tied to this job. The school I’m at was just ranked 2nd in the state for non-selective government schools. I’ve been there for nearly 2 decades. I could pick up a job anywhere with (insert name of school) on my resume. Heck, there’s a school at the end of my street! I could walk to work!

AND, with my FU money as a buffer, I could go part-time, or pick up short-term contracts or simply do CRT. (Casual/Relief teaching for when teachers are away. ) Doing CRT is a cool $330/day and you don’t have to attend meetings or do correction etc. Hmmm…

As I sat there, listening to the speeches and then a bit later on having lunch, behind all the conversation and joking, my mind was ticking over.

  1. Was I ready to fully retire? On paper, possibly YES. But being the security-valuing person that I am, probably NO.
  2. Am I tied to the job at (insert name of school here)? NO. I am ongoing/fully tenured, but I can get that anywhere else.
  3. Could I work somewhere else? YES.
  4. Could I support myself and the boys by working part-time or CRT if necessary? YES. (It’d probably add to my quality of life, to be honest!)
  5. If for some reason I couldn’t find any work, could I support myself until I could access my superannuation? YES.
  6. Am I prepared to go into a meeting with the principal over this debating issue and ultimately be prepared to follow through on a threat to resign?… I guess the answer is… YES. (Yikes!)

By the end of lunch, I had an empty feeling in my stomach which had nothing to do with the food. I’d realised that the only thing standing between me and being free of the spectre of debating was being fearless enough to walk away from my (up-till-now) lovely job if I had to.

The money wasn’t the issue. Security wasn’t an issue. I had those pretty well covered.

It was the fear of the unknown. The fear that, even if she turned down my offer of resignation, I’d have damaged that working relationship. Which, on the other hand, was already damaged by the debating debacle in the first place…

But as lunch came to a close and we were getting up from the table to clear our plates and go over to the gelato bar for dessert, I knew that I was going to stick to my guns and have a meeting with her. My FU money was there for a reason, after all, and I knew without a doubt that the debating assignment was a deal-breaker for me.

As I was walking back to the table, my principal walked over to me and said, “I can always rely on you to give a good reaction when you win something!”

I smiled and said, “Hey, tell me you were joking when you said that thing about me getting debating.” I crossed my fingers.

“She laughed. “Of course I was! I only said it because of what you said before!!”

I said, “Oh God I love you!!” and hugged her.

FU Fund emergency averted! I have no idea which job I’ll be allocated next year but I know it’s not the one from which clearly I carry scars from my first year of teaching.

But how interesting that whole episode was. I’m really happy where I work and I assumed that I’d be working there until I chose to leave the workforce. I hadn’t given that chunk of money in the bank a second thought once I put it in there. It was for Old Lady Frogdancer to be safe from bear markets, not for me.

But when the situation changed, having that chunk of money/FU Fund seriously changed the whole dynamic of how I thought about my quality of life. I was free to make a stand, if I needed to, about my job.

If that money wasn’t there and my principal wasn’t joking, I would have had to suck it up and be the debating organiser. I wouldn’t have much of a choice. It’s the end of the year and schools have filled their positions for next year. Either way, I couldn’t move seamlessly from one job to another. I’d have to stay and be miserable. I’d need that pay packet every fortnight.

Having an FU Fund gives the courage to be able to sidestep and walk away into a world with new pathways.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that I don’t have to have that ‘courageous conversation’ with my boss. I’m relieved that the status quo will continue. I love my school and my students and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest.’

But how liberating is it to know that, should the situation at work ever change to a point where I find it untenable, I’m financially free enough to walk away?

It was a half-hour misunderstanding. Absolutely nothing in the big scheme of things. But in that half an hour I was free to evaluate my life and to weigh up what was important to me. I realised that I am finally free to draw a line in the sand and say, “This far and no more.”

That’s a very precious position for a person to be in. It makes me think about my job in a whole new light. It makes me think about my LIFE in a whole new light.

The possibilities are bigger than I thought.

 

 

 

 

 

Frugal Friday: Short-term (hip pocket) pain for long-term gain.

Anyone who hops onto this blog for more than 3 seconds will realise very quickly that my dogs are very important to me. In the picture here are Scout and Poppy, lurking behind the oregano. Jeffrey looks almost the same as his twin sister, so just imagine 2 Cavaliers and you’ll have the family group.

It’s also no secret that I’m a long-term thinker. Around the dogs is all the reclaimed brick paving I put in, so Old Lady Frogdancer won’t have to mow lawns and weed in her golden years. I like to do a job properly once, then walk away and never have to do it again. The side-hustle that I did for 6 years exemplifies this. You buy a thermomix and it’ll last at least 20 years. I love that!

I also have an eye on retirement. A group of us were talking about it at work during the end-of-year luncheon yesterday. Most of us are looking at another 4 or 5 years of work before pulling the pin. We’re starting to seriously think about how our days will look like, what we’ll do and what’s important to us. I’ve started to put some preparatory plans in place while I’m still working and part of that is visualising what an average day would look like and how Present Me can make things easier/cheaper for Future Me.

My life in retirement will be pretty simple. Once (or twice) a year I’ll be spending up big on international holidays, but for the rest of the year, I’ll be living very simply and frugally. It’s in my nature. I’ll be reading, sewing, knitting and living with the dogs, socialising every now and then and having the ‘Sunday Roast’ lunches every week to see my boys.

Which brings me back to the dogs. And the dog beach 5 minutes walk away.

I was reading a post by a Way Famous blogger where he talked about the “Buy it for Life” concept and he mentioned buying a dog walking bag. Intrigued, I clicked across and had a look. For 4 years I’ve been using a plain canvas bag to hold things like leashes, balls and my phone as we walk and it’s been a constant irritation. Sand gets into it and the straps aren’t long enough to sling over my shoulder to keep it from flopping around. It’s hard to locate things in it while on the move, which is annoying. But I got it for free and it does the job… barely.

This new bag seems to solve a lot of problems.

We get fined if we don’t pick up after our dogs, especially on the beach. This little dispenser makes it easy to carry them with us all the time.

The material it’s made from is sturdy and doesn’t flop open, so any bits and pieces I carry won’t get sand on them. This compartment is big enough for balls and treats and is very easy to open.

A zippable pocket for my phone. Yes, please! No more sand getting onto it and I don’t have to worry about it falling out of my pants pocket and getting lost.

I had a door key cut for my dog walking bag. This clip means that it isn’t swinging around on the handle of my canvas bag and it’ll be securely in place.

Was it cheap?

Hell no, especially when you take the exchange rate between Aussie and American dollars into consideration. It took just over half a day’s take-home wage to pay for this bag. That’s a lot of money for what’s essentially a luxury item.

But look at it. It’s incredibly sturdy, functional and will last me for YEARS. I’ll never have to ‘make do’ with a bag that irks me every time I use it. It will make my life just that tiniest bit easier every time I grab the leads and we walk sprint out the door. Every day for years. That’s a pretty good bargain when you think of it like this.

There have been times in my life where, with all the best will in the world, I had to ‘make do’ because I simply didn’t have the income to spend on buying the more expensive, better-made alternative. A low income limits your choices.

However, if you have the coin to be able to weigh up the available choices on a particular item, I’ll make the spending choice based on long-term value rather than purely looking at the price tag. If it’s not of huge, or only occasional value to me in the way I live my life, I’ll be frugal all the way.

But if the purchase dovetails neatly into enhancing my quality of life with the things I feel are important, and it will last for a very long period of time so I don’t have to think of buying it again, I’ll spend the extra coin.

Money well spent.

The book I bought the boys for Christmas.

best finance book for young adults

I’ve decided that every year, at least for the next few years while the kids are mostly in their early 20’s, I’ll be buying my sons and nieces a finance book for Christmas.

As written about in this post, Iast year I gave them ‘The Richest Man in Babylon.” Hey, it’s a classic and it’s short. I wanted to start them off easy. Ryan23 read it but wasn’t a fan. He asked for something a bit meatier to read on the train on his commute to uni, so I bought him ‘The Millionaire Next Door’, which he loved. He’s now tackling ‘Your Money or Your Life’, but I don’t think that’s grabbed him as much.

I also bought them ‘The Barefoot Investor’, which is a Dave Ramsey-esque layout of how to organise finances and stay out of debt.

In the middle of October, my mighty intellect realised that Christmas was coming, so I began to think about which book I was going to buy for the kids this year. I put up a few enquires on FB and twitter, bought and downloaded a few to my ipad to test-drive them, but none of them seemed quite right.

I wanted something that had a bit more of a nuts-and-bolts approach about finances and investing, which could teach them about how to deploy the money they’ve (presumably) been accumulating if they’ve taken the Babylon lessons to heart.

I remembered a book I’d read years ago by Noel Whittaker, called ‘Making Money Made Simple’, which has chapters on banking, insurance, investing, the property market, the share market etc. I jumped onto his website to see if it had been updated, (it had), so I sent him an email to ask if the books he was selling on his website were the latest editions.

He wrote back saying yes they were, but then recommended another book he and his son had written, which was aimed at the demographic the kids are from. ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Wealth.’

I bought the kindle version and settled down for a read.

At first, I was a bit ‘ho-hum’ about it. The first part of the book talks about the mindset and attitudes needed to succeed, not just with finances but with life in general. I was thinking, “Yeah yeah, I’ve heard this all before…” when it suddenly struck me. The kids probably haven’t come across this information before, so it would be invaluable.

I kept reading with renewed enthusiasm.

At the end of the day I ordered 6 copies. It’s a well-balanced book, with the first part about positive thinking, being a lifelong learner and basically getting off your behind and getting out there; while the second part is a little like ‘Making Money Made Simple’ with basic information about finances and such.

I think it’s a good ‘next step’ book for them, with the logical next buy being the original book. However, with all of the FI books being released lately, who knows what next year’s book will be?

 

 

Frugal Friday: The Great Coffee Experiment.

A little while ago I read a post on ‘Get Rich Slowly‘ where the guest writer was talking about his quest for the best and cheapest coffee. He went into exhaustive detail about the cost of heaps of different coffees, with his conclusion being that the Kirkland brand of coffee beans at Costco was the cheapest for him.

I was inspired to find out what the Frogdancer family was paying for our morning coffees.

Costco here in Melbourne only sells ground coffee beans, not the actual coffee beans themselves. This immediately knocked Costco out for the experiment, though a few months ago I bought a jar of ground coffee from them so I could keep reusing the container. Most people prefer to grind their own beans if at all possible. This might not sound like a big deal, but we here in Melbourne take our coffee very seriously indeed.  Since the wave of Italian migration here in the 1950’s, Melbournians have grown up drinking espresso, capucchino and lattés like mother’s milk.  In fact, our cafés make babychinos and pupperchinos so that the kids and dogs don’t miss out.

Oops, got off track. We in the Jones household grind our own coffee beans in the thermomix, (250g, speed 10, 27 seconds, for those who are interested), so I wasn’t going to pay extra for pre-ground coffee. It’s Frugal Friday, after all! This is where Aldi came to the rescue.

$11.99 for a kilo of South American coffee beans. In our house, we prefer the taste of the Brazilian/Columbian beans over the Italian ones, even though the Italian beans are $1/kg cheaper. Sometimes, you just have to lash out and spoil yourself.

As you can see, we use an Aeropress. Around $60 for the best-tasting coffee! It comes with what they say is a year’s supply of paper filters that are compostable… but read on. There’s a way around this.

After making a cup, the Aeropress people expect us to simply push the coffee grounds out into the bin along with the paper filter. We, however, refuse to be dictated to by The (Aeropress) Man, so we rinse and re-use our filters. During this experiment, I also tracked how long we were using each filter. We got 32 cups of coffee with one filter!

See the light coming in from the tiny hole in the middle of it? That was when this filter finally joined the coffee grounds that we save in a bowl to go out into the garden.

Brand-new filter vs 32 cup filter. You can buy a metal filter to replace the paper ones, but I won’t need to bother about doing this for YEARS!

Saving the coffee grounds is heaps easier with an Aeropress. Once the coffee is all in the cup, you just depress the plunger fully and the grounds are pushed straight out. No rinsing or fiddling about. Free fertiliser! Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, which plants love.

Once a week I put the coffee grounds, tea leaves and any egg shells we’ve used into the thermomix and I grind them all to a powder, then I dig it into the garden. I love that I’m getting a second use from my morning coffees!

As you can see, out tracking of how many cups per kilo that we got was done with primitive, yet effective technology. A pen and paper beside the Aeropress and kettle did the trick.

$11.99 divided by 74 = 16c per cup of coffee.

This makes even the $1 a cup coffee that teachers in my staffroom buy each morning at 7/11 look like extortion!

Thanks to J.D Roth of Get Rich Slowly and John from ESI Money for producing the original post that this one sprang from. It was a fun little exercise to do and now that I know how cheaply I’m buying my morning cup of coffee, it makes it taste even more delectable.

I love my job – so why do I want to retire early?

Today is the last day of classes for years 7 and 8. We’ll have a week and two days of activities and curriculum days, then I’ll have 5 weeks of sweet, sweet holidays. Five glorious weeks where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and I won’t hear a single school bell. Hmm… sounds a bit like retirement, doesn’t it?

I still really enjoy teaching. My days are varied, the kids make me laugh all the time and I’m good at what I do. Next year my year 12 Theatre Studies class is doing ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, which is one of my favourite plays, so I have that to look forward to. I already know that I’m teaching years 7, 8 and 9 English. I enjoy the wriggly puppy classes and it’s what I was doing this year, so there’ll be no surprises. 2019 should be a pretty good year of teaching.

So why am I so eager to reach the ‘Retire Early’ part of FIRE?

Have a look at the screenshot above. I get to work at around 8AM every day. I could arrive later but since the day my car’s side mirror was torn off by a car when I parked in a side street, I prefer to get to work early enough to get a park in the staff car park. This means that I get up at 5:50AM to spend some quality time with the dogs on the couch, reading and snuggling, while I drink my coffee.  I do the reading, they do the snuggling.

My commute is never under 40 minutes each way and is sometimes a bit longer. I don’t really mind this, because I listen to podcasts, but it takes another big chunk out of every day.

After work, we have to stay late most nights. There’s always a meeting or marking to do. I’ve learned that if I optimistically take correction home, it tends to stay in my bag so all I do is bring it back to work the next day. So I do all my marking at school.

From the moment the locker bell goes at 8:35, our days are scheduled to the minute. The classes are at weird increments of time and we have to be at the classroom door precisely on time to start the classes. Those darned kids aren’t going to teach themselves! The bells rule our days and the 2,300 students and the 300 teachers all behave like Pavlov’s dogs whenever one rings.  I’m not saying we drool, but as soon as that bell goes, bums are off seats and we’re all halfway out the door, ready for the next bite-sized chunk of the day.

If you’re a teacher who couldn’t get to the bathroom during recess and you’re now halfway through period 4 and you’re bursting to go – that’s too bad. There’s no way that you’re allowed to leave the class by themselves, not even when nature calls. If something happens, like a kid having a seizure, (which happened last term to the teacher who sits next to me), or a fire alarm going off, or a kid decides to throw a paper plane that hits another kid in the eye, and you’re not there to take charge – heaven help you legally…

Feeling a bit seedy and wanting to take things a bit easy that day?? Don’t do it – the kids will smell weakness and they’ll eat you alive. You have to have your game-face on all the time and be high-octane full-tilt boogie-woogie. This is why most teachers make it to the end of term/the year and then spend the first week of the holidays being ill.

Personally, much as I love the actual teaching part of teaching, I’m beginning to want to live my life in a less structured way. After all, it’s not often that I’m lying awake, breathlessly waiting for the alarm to ring at 5:50 so I can get up to go to work.

Imagine waking up naturally on a Monday morning?

I’d like to choose for myself which days are jam-packed and productive, instead of getting my timetable for next year and finding out that the timetabler has decided that Wednesdays and Thursdays in 2019 are going to be the busy days, while Mondays and Tuesdays are the days where I’ll have some breathing room.

Much as I love my students, sometimes I think that it’d be nice not to live my days surrounded by the hormonally challenged. The latter part of year 8 until the middle part of year 10, when the kids are 14 – 16 years old, is when they go slightly irrational. They’re growing like weeds, which takes a huge amount of energy, they’re being flooded with hormones and they bounce from childishness to maturity and back again with bewildering speed.

This is all very tiring for the kids, but they’re not the only ones suffering. I call myself an extroverted introvert, which basically means that I can enjoy the company of other people, but I hugely need time on my own with just the dogs to recharge the batteries.  Those students can suck the vitality right out of you if you’re not careful.

Imagine having a week where I didn’t even have to leave the house, if I didn’t want to? Where, if that happened, I didn’t have to devise a week’s worth of lesson plans and have work ready for all of my classes to do while I was away?

Where I could choose to have a nanna nap after lunch for 30 minutes or so, without it being considered unprofessional to do it in front of a class?

Where I could quietly plan a holiday overseas AND BE ABLE TO GO OUT OF SCHOOL HOLIDAY TIMES???  The unfettered freedom of having the whole calendar open to me… I can barely fathom what it must be like! All of those cut-price airfares – we teachers never get to enjoy them.

I’m rapidly reaching the stage where I want the freedom to be able to choose what my days will be like. I don’t think I’ll be bored – as long as there are books, the internet, my hobbies, my friends and my dogs in the world, I’ll be fine. Oh! And the boys, of course!! Nearly forgot about those people I made…

The reason I like teaching as a career so much is that I hate being micromanaged. Hand me the curriculum, I’ll walk into the classroom and close the door and I’ll teach it the way I want to teach it. I’ll do a great job, the kids will learn and be inspired, we’ll all have a laugh and I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder, nitpicking how I do things.

This has been a good gig from that perspective for years now. But I’ve reached the stage where that’s nudging into being not enough autonomy for me.

For me, FIRE means freedom. Freedom to be ferociously busy or terrifically lazy – whatever I feel like being that day. Freedom to dress how I like on a weekday. To never have to do a performance review again or fill in PDP documentation. To go for a walk on the beach in the middle of the day or jump on the train and go to an art gallery on a Thursday morning – just because I feel like it.

I’ve already reached FI. But I want to be sure that I can travel every year of my life, so I’m continuing to work for now. I’m doing projects around the house so that when I DO pull the pin on work, I won’t have to spend money on renovations. I’ll be free to spend it all on anything I want.

I’ve spent the last 21 years being a single parent to my 4 boys. I’ve worked full-time for 16 years in a job that, like parenting, requires a huge outflow of caring and focus. I’m now 55.

FIRE means time for ME.

Is it any wonder I can hardly wait?

 

 

 

What has my second-gen FIRE child learned about money?

 

In the personal finance world, there’s a lot of blog posts written about teaching children about money. I’ve done it myself – the post I wrote that ended up winning the first Rockstar Rumble was about teaching my kids about compound interest. However, a huge proportion of these posts are written by parents with very young children. I’m at the other end of the journey, with adult kids moving out into the world.

I discovered the FIRE path about 5 years ago, so a lot of my boys’ money training has been observing the day-to-day decisions that I’ve made in the previous years, as well as observing the decisions of other family and friends around them.  I didn’t have the information about investing and compounding that I do now, so for most of their lives I wasn’t actively talking to them about this. Their father has been a small business owner for most of their lives, so they’d work in his shop on their access weekends with him and see life from that angle.

A year ago, on the other blog, I wrote about Evan22 moving out of home into Res at Uni in a post entitled: Reduce Your Bills By Evicting One of your Kids!

As anyone who has ever lived on campus knows, choosing to live there is hellishly expensive. Back when my boy was Evan21, he decided to live on campus for a year to get to know everyone and then work out who he wanted to share a house with for the next 2 years of his course. He paid for this himself. His decision to live in Res worked out really well. As he said on the way up to Ballarat, “All the people who moved into houses at the start of the year are now all moving away from the people they started with and moving into different places with their friends!”

Here’s The Playboy Mansion. Evan22 will be living here with 3 girls. They have the bedrooms in the house, while he has the sleepout out the back. He pays the most for his space, at $150/week.

He’s a full-time student over the age of 22, plus he’s living away from home. This means that he can pull in a Centrelink payment of around $580/fortnight. He’s taking out a HELP loan to pay for his course, which is around $6,800/year. I know that many people, particularly in the US, consider it almost mandatory to pay for some or all of their kids’ college/university fees, but I don’t.

I told them all that I was responsible for seeing them through high school. If they choose to go to tertiary education, (the word ‘choose’ should have been in quotation marks because they were left in no doubt that the only choice about that was which course they should do!)… anyway, they could live with me without paying board. They pay for their own books and fees, but their living expenses are nil.

My reasoning is this – I think a better financial gift to my children is the gift of their mother being financially independent throughout her whole life. I don’t want to be in my 80’s and having to go to the boys for a handout every time the electricity bill comes in. They’ll have their own families to support and their own lives to live. I can’t finance their educations and adequately provide for my own retirement – I am but one woman. So they have to take responsibility for their own decisions from here on out.

So how has Evan22, being the youngest of my children, handled his finances after a lifetime of living with Frogdancer Jones? I haven’t directly asked him about this – maybe an interview post in the future might be interesting to get his perspective? – but here’s what I’ve observed.

But first, a little background to put things in context:

 

He was only 11 months old when I left my ex-husband, so he, as one of the younger 3 boys, grew up without any memory of when there were 2 parents in the house. For the next 4 years of his life, I was a stay-at-home Mum, waiting for him to grow up and get to school so that I could go out and work. We existed on what was called back then the ‘Sole Parents’ Pension’ of around 18K/year, plus intermittent child support when the Child Support agency would catch up with my ex.

With 4 children, going back to work wasn’t a financial option. The daycare fees would have wiped out my wage. So the boys lived in an ultra-frugal house for years. My priority was security for the boys, so the mortgage, food and bills were always paid. Then any extras would come out of what was left.

So what has Evan22 done with all of this?

He’s actually done pretty darned well so far. When he finished secondary school he was adamant that he didn’t want to go on to further education. He took a gap year, where he worked part-time in a fruit shop around the corner and dabbled on various writing and film projects. He couldn’t get any Centrelink allowances because at his age, they take his parents’ income into consideration and I earn too much.

Then the gap year turned into 2… then 3. About 18 months after he finished school, I moved out of the house we were living in and went to live in The Best House in Melbourne, while Evan20 stayed behind in the old place. He got some roommates in and they all paid rent.

He was never late in the rent. He worked and paid his own way. Sure, the garden looked like the place was haunted and they weren’t the cleanest tenants a landlord ever had, but he was supporting himself and hey- the house was going to be knocked down anyway!

In his third gap year, he left the fruit shop and took an office job with a couple of his high school friends. Unbeknownst to me, he’d already decided that he wanted to do an acting course. Unfortunately, that realisation hit him AFTER auditions for the following year were over. So he decided to get a job that actually paid fairly decent money and start to save.

Most acting courses worth their salt are either interstate or in the country. There was one – at the Vic College of the Arts – that if he got in, he could live at home and take the train in each morning. But he knew he’d better not bank on that one. He saved up around 15K over that year he worked in the office job, quietly salting it away for what may come in the next year.

Meanwhile, the house was sold and he moved back in with us. He still kept going to work, saving and still having fun. Towards the end of that year, (2017), he casually said, “Hey Mum, can you help me with some audition pieces? I’m going to try for Acting for next year.”

When he was accepted into a really terrific course in rural Victoria, I was worried about the expense of housing him. But, as you already know, he already had that covered. He was determined not to ask me for money for it, so he paid for his first year of accommodation. Towards the end of that year, he had a birthday and he knew the mature-aged student allowance from Centrelink would kick in, enabling him to pay rent for the next 2 years. He’d quietly worked it all out and then took the steps to make sure it would all come together.

All of my children have grown up to be very debt-averse. None of them have credit cards and the only person they borrow money from is The Bank of Mum if their car blows up or something. (They appreciate the interest-free component. And they always pay me back.) But Evan22 wasn’t comfortable borrowing 5 figures from me, so he worked out a way to cover it himself. I’m incredibly proud of him for that. I think it shows maturity beyond his years.

But what about the rest of his expences? Is he incredibly frugal, spending money only on essentials?

Well, if you consider buying 5 copies of the same vinyl album of his favourite band because it came in 5 different colours frugal… then yes! He seems to go out to breakfast a lot, so I’d say there’s plenty of smashed avocado in his life. When he drinks it’s not beer or wine, but vodka and whiskey. He’s a vegetarian, so his groceries are probably less than if he was a meat eater, though having said that, have you seen the cost of chia seeds lately???

He spends very little on clothes. They’re just not that important to him. I think he’s learned by living with me that it’s smarter to spend on the things that HE values, not what society/his peers/his mother tell him to spend his money on. He follows his own heart.

When we finished moving in I took him out to lunch. He’s an independent guy – I asked if he wanted to swing by the supermarket on the way back to The Playboy Mansion to stock up his new kitchen. I was paying, of course.

“No thanks, Mum, ” he said. “I’ve got plenty of food left over from Res.”

In the whole year he’s been living up there, he hasn’t put a hand out for money once. Not once. I haven’t offered, because I was curious to see how it would pan out. I’m very proud of how he’s learned to organise his money and pay his way.

On the way up to Ballarat, we went via IKEA, where I bought him a Queen-sized bed with all the trimmings, plus a few other odds and ends that he needed. He thinks that the extra things are coming out of his Christmas money. (I give every boy up to the age of 25 a $300 voucher for Christmas. They use it for clothes, usually.) He’ll be expecting a voucher for about $50.

But he’ll be getting the full $300. I think he’s earned it.

I’ve said it before, but I’m very proud and impressed by how well Evan22 has stepped out into the world and has started to navigate himself with his finances. He’s clearly observed and internalised the “stay out of debt’ and ‘make sure there’s more money than month’ rules that I’ve lived my life by.

The next step is to teach him about compounding and investing. Considering that he’s moving into a notoriously unstable field of work, he’ll need his money to be working hard for him. However, judging by how he’s travelled so far, I think he’ll be able to listen and learn.

So far anyway, he’s behaving with money pretty much as you’d want a second-generation FIRE kid to be. Ok, so he’s not doing an engineering degree or living at home and biking to the local university to save money, but all in all, his attitude towards his finances seems to have a solid bedrock upon which to build.

Anyway, this is how a second-gen FIRE kid is behaving in his early 20’s. He learned frugality and delayed gratification at my feet, but I didn’t start learning about investing, compounding and FIRE until he was in his late teens. Imagine what the children of younger FIRE parents will be absorbing as they grow?

The sky’s the limit…

 

Living on a Prayer.

Last Saturday night my friend Blogless Megan and I went to the MCG to see Bon Jovi.

Not my usual genre of music, but when I heard that they were coming I knew I had to get a ticket. Not for present Frogdancer, but for Past Frogdancer. I haven’t blogged much about life when the kids were little, but when we were living on the bare bones of our backsides, there was a song that was one of my absolute anthems of hope. I’d sing it with the boys, changing one very important line, and we’d belt it out and I’d put my heart and soul into every word.

The relevant lyrics?

“We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got.
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not,
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love…
We’ll give it a shot.
Woah, we’re halfway there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer!
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear!
Woah, livin’ on a prayer!
Livin’ on a prayer…
Oh, we’ve got to hold on, ready or not
You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got –
Woah, we’re halfway there!
Woah, livin’ on a prayer!
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear,
Woah, livin’ on a prayer.”
I’m reading through these words and I’m starting to tear up. At work, at my desk. I’d better get a grip. But it brings back those days so clearly, when I was so scared I was going to somehow muck up the boys and we’d disappear in a puddle of failure.
When I left my husband, my boys were 6, 4 and  3 years old, while the baby was 11 months old. Our assets were a house that had a 100K mortgage, 2 ancient vans and a joint bank account with $120 in it. I closed that account and gave him half. The boys and I began our new life together with $60 cash, a mortgage repayment, (my ex was supposed to pay it as child support but he soon stopped when he realised I was serious about the whole ‘separation’ thing) and not much else.
I was definitely living on a prayer. The boys were so very young and they depended on me to keep everything together, safe, secure and free from drama. I was determined to give them the normal middle-class life that they were entitled to have, whether or not they had both parents around. No one forced me to marry the man I did, but I was utterly adamant that my poor choice was not going to hold them back in any way. I just didn’t quite know how I was going to pull it off.
This song had so much in it for us. The complete love we had for each other. The fact that we were all in it together, holding on to what we’ve got and moving forward together.
Of course, anyone who has an ounce of grit in them will see the lyric I still change every time I sing it. How can it NOT make a difference if you make it or not? It makes all the damned difference in the world, especially when you’re looking down into the four little faces of your tiny sons who depend on you for everything in their lives.
So I sing, “It DOES make a difference if we make it or not.”
No room for error here, thanks. The Frogdancer family wasn’t going to go down the gurgler if I had anything to say about it!
So I had to go and see this song being sung. I owed it to that scared but determined mother who left her husband because it was the best thing for her little boys. The one who lived for 4 years on the sole parents’ pension of 18K a year, paying the mortgage and keeping food on the table and grimly treading water financially, waiting for the time when her baby was off to school and she could go to work again and try to get ahead.
 So here’s what happened.

 

Every bogan in Melbourne was there. This gif illustrates the typical bogan couple in a recreational mood. Some people were wearing mullet wigs, but an impressive number of men and women were sporting home-grown mullets and Bon Jovi t-shirts stretched out over middle-aged paunches.

I’ve always been a pretty lucky person, even when times were tough and it didn’t seem like there was much light at the end of the tunnel. When you look back, there’s always been luck working on my side. Fortunate Frogdancer struck again at this concert.

Exhibit A: I defy any woman reading this to NOT be impressed by this.

This is a ladies bathroom at a major event in a stadium seating 100K. There was NO QUEUE. This is unheard of. And yet – you see the evidence.

After visiting the Women’s, Blogless Megan and I felt the need to rehydrate with an alcoholic beverage or two. Look! We had open space at the bar! It took around 20 minutes for the hordes of thirsty Bon Jovians to find this bar and fill up the place. By then, we’d tucked away 2 wines and were chatting away like ladies.

 

I also discovered that I’m still nimble enough to leap like a gazelle up onto this VERY tall stool. See where my feet end and the bottle of water begins? That stool was HIGH!!

After our drinkies, we found our seats. When we were looking at our obligatory selfie, Blogless Megan noticed the woman behind my head. I have no idea what she has in her mouth…

Our seats were right beside where the sound people are. That meant that we were in the perfect place to get the best sound. Fortunate, hey?

Then look what happened!! These freakishly tall people came and sat in front of us. The guy on the left was literally 6’6 at least and he sat directly in front of me. I silently sighed, resigned to my fate. I’m 5’2″.

But then he and his wife had a quick exchange and then swapped places!!! I leaned forward, tapped her on the arm and said, “OMG, I love you!!” They laughed.

Blogless Megan tapped me on the arm and said, “We’re in the same row as Molly Meldrum.” She took a sneaky pic. See him in the cowboy hat???

Molly Meldrum used to host Australia’s version of MTV back in the 70’s. He was hugely influential in the music scene.

So what was the actual concert like?

Gently boring, to be honest. Here’s the setlist.

For the first HOUR, there was only one good song. ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’, which the crowd belted out as one. It was great. The rest were from their latest album, which 95% of the crowd didn’t know.

I just stood there, listening to the music and watching the crowd. I wanted to hear, “It’s my Life’ and of course, ‘Living on a Prayer.” I knew my time would come.

After the first hour, the concert got more interesting. There were a couple of songs that I vaguely knew, so that was good.

Lots of mobile phone action during a song where he talked about lying down in a bed of roses. Sounded dangerously prickly to me, but it seemed to be a crowd favourite.

So how was ‘Living on a Prayer’?

Fantastic. I sang that song with everything in me. So did the rest of the crowd. It was amazing.

Would I go to see them again? Nope. I’ve scratched that itch for Past Frogdancer. She never dreamed that one day she’d be sitting in a $260 seat, just to hear her song being sung. Her kids have grown up and they’re doing fine; she’s well on the way to FIRE and she lives debt-free in The Best House in Melbourne.

The line of, “You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got” was how she lived her life for years, with extreme frugality being her main weapon. Imagine if I could send a message back to her – to tell her to chill, that everything was going to work out fine.

I can’t do that. So I stood there at the MCG and sang her song.

With gusto.