Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er). Achieved the first two letters of FIRE, now onto the rest!

Accidentally frugal and slightly extravagant.

The last few months of lockdown have allowed me to be slightly extravagant because I’ve been accidentally frugal. By ‘accidentally frugal’ I mean that by staying at home for the last 3 months, I’ve brought my day to day expenses to nearly zero while pulling in a wage by working from home. Sadly, I’m now back at school, (wearing a face mask because there’s no way those kids will socially distance), teaching crowded classrooms and sitting in staffroom with lots of others, but the past 3 months have allowed me to (almost) finish a very expensive job on my ‘things to do’ list.

But today, one of those expenses I dropped from my shopping list is now back.

As I sit in the hairdressing salon, 15 weeks after having my last hair appointment, I feel a little uneasy. When I walked in there were 2 women sitting o the couches waiting, while 2 women were having their hair worked on. I went to sit down and my hairdresser raced over, waving her hands frantically. 

“NO, No, don’t sit down – there’ll be too many people in here!” she said. I waited on a bench outside while she finished blow-drying her client’s hair.

One hairdresser is wearing a helmet-y device with a clear plastic shield over her face. ‘My’ hairdresser is wearing a face mask. When I saw that, I pulled out one of the home-made face masks that I’ve been wearing to work and I put it on.

Now, I’m ensconced in a corner of one of the couches and I’m waiting my turn.

Honestly, I’d be happy to leave my hair looking like a haystack for a few more weeks, but it occurred to me that the best time to get a cut and colour would be between the two waves of the virus, assuming we get a second wave, which I feel in my waters that we will. Although I’m obviously still youthful and dewy,  I’m at the awkward age of having grey hair around my face but my hair is still darker at the back. I thought about going gracefully grey but in the end I’ve decided against it.

So here I am. I used to get a cut and colour every 6 weeks or so at a cost of $85. I know – it’s crazy cheap! Lockdown has saved me around $200 on this one recurring expense, which is nothing to be sneezed at. I’ve also goy a different look now – leaving my hair to grow has given me a bob, rather than a short hairdo. I’m going with it for the moment, just as a change.

Lockdown has been a strangely frugal, yet expensive time. Long-term readers of this blog would know that I’ve made a list of things to get done here in The Best House in Melbourne before I retire.  Updating my major kitchen appliances was on the list, but way down. Now, it appears that I’ve accidentally attacked this job without meaning to.

A few days after lockdown started – and just as I began a sourdough starter – my oven died. Given that I’m looking to retire-proof my house, I wasn’t going to buy a cheap and nasty replacement. I’m going to do that job right! So in went a $1400 made-in-Germany oven. Then, 2 weeks ago our dishwasher died. Again, I’m going to replace it with something that’ll last for Old Lady Frogdancer, so another $1600 went on the same made-in-Germany brand. (Both these prices include installation and removal of the old models.)

At the same time, I haven’t been spending money. Petrol? Nup. Been staying at home. Food? We stocked up before the lockdown, so apart from buying a few fresh ingredients, we haven’t been going to the shops. Entertainment has been taken care of by books, Netflix, Foxtel (my free 2 months runs out next week so I’ve been bingeing) and my latest awesome discovery – audiobooks from my local library. I had to replace my 8 year old iPad just before lockdown and I’ve scored a free 12 month subscription to Apple TV. When I cancel my Foxtel I’ll move across to this.

I’m not a big online shopper at the best of times. The only things I’ve bought have been the oven, dishwasher and a gorgeous earthenware water bowl for the dogs as a lockdown present to myself.

Poppy.
Poppy.

All in all, my biggest expense apart from the kitchen appliances has been three trips to the vet. Poppy has had a couple of eye ulcers, which sounds incredibly painful, so of course we have to get rid of them. No one said that having pets was a cheap thing to do, but of course in this household, the dogs are the heartbeat around which the house revolves. After all, I only bought this house when I did so that we could continue to keep them!

So, by being accidentally frugal, I’ve been able to cashflow the bigger expenses because my wage isn’t being frittered away, which has the huge bonus of allowing me to protect my savings. Just between you and me, I’d rather have the 3K that I’ve spent on an oven and dishwasher sitting in my savings account waiting to pay for a new ensuite or new front verandah, but hey – I’m a glass half-full kind of girl. At least I’ve just about finished my kitchen reno! A new cooktop and exhaust fan is all that I need

But they can wait…

… as I am. My hairdresser doesn’t accept appointments so I’ve been sitting here for an hour. I’m next up, though! In a couple of hours I’ll be ravishingly beautiful again. (Edited to add – it took 4 hours all up. But at $85 for a cut and colour, I’ve learned to take my laptop and a good book in with me. You never know how long you’ll have to wait.)

Now that I’ve finished this blog post, I’ll be firing up my kindle app and beginning Noel Whittacker’s ‘Superannuation Made Simple.’ If I’m heading towards retirement in the next little while, this is an area I’ll need to be very familiar with! 

16 Comments

  1. Budget Life List

    On the brightside, at least you were preparing financially to replace those kitchen appliances. We have a savings account for big house repairs but we dont want to replace anything! I am glad Poppy is feeling better. She is too cute to be in such pain! Our students aren’t returning to school this year maybe in the fall but time will tell. Hopefully there will be a vaccine by then!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Your fall is our spring. I’d be rapt if I didn’t have to go back to work until then!

  2. Latestarterfire

    Love the accidental frugal part – me too! By not travelling overseas this year, I’m saving so much more. I’ve started trimming my own fringe in front of the bathroom mirror – must admit it’s very nerve wracking.

    Just finished Noel Whittacker’s Superannuation made easy too.

    That quilt is gorgeous (as is Poppy!)

  3. Philip POGSON

    Hopefully you’ll do a book review on Noel’s Superannuation book. We are headed that way in a few short years too but we will be dipping into our investment bonds to fund our early retirement before we hit preservation age.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Sounds good.
      I’m not totally sure how long I’ll be working. I have 2.5 years before I can access my super… not sure if I’ll wait till then or not.

  4. Maureen

    Yes indeed; that cancelled trip and staying at home certainly boosted my bank account. Not to mention that I’ll have to “leave my hair looking like a haystack” for another month before my hair stylists can work me into her phased reopening schedule. To feel like a positive member of society, I’ve donated a bit more – time and funds – as I feel incredibly fortunate to have avoided the dire financial circumstances so many had thrust upon them. Planting cabbage and weeding onions on a food bank farm is a great way to help out and meet others of the same mind.
    I had to look up superannuation as that is not something I’ve heard of in the states. Just wondering – who funds it, the employer or employee? In other words is it a pension plan or and Individual Retirement Account (IRA)?

    • FrogdancerJones

      Super is a system where every employer pays 9.5% of each worker’s wage into a fund of the employees choosing. (The employee can also add extra, subject to certain limits)
      This pile of money can’t be accessed until the employees turn 60 (or thereabouts – I can access mine earlier.) It ensures that by the time everyone reaches retirement age they have at least SOME money to help support themselves in retirement.
      It’s not a perfect system but it’s not too bad…

  5. Jamie

    I’d love to see a photo of your new hair do at some point!

    My big “expense” this week was putting $3000 into my super before the end of the financial year. Actually, it was a spousal contribution from my husband, but it came out of our joint savings account that I’ve been slowly building up over time. It was hard to see it drop, but I know it is still our money and that it will work hard over the next 30 years until I can access it. I think I mentioned in another comment recently that I’ve been a SAHM for the past 17.5 years, apart from a little bit of help with my husband’s side gig, so my super is looking very sad indeed. In the past few years we’ve tried to bump it up a little, but took a year or two off around buying our current house to keep some extra cash on hand in case any expensive repairs were needed in the beginning. Now we are trying to stay on track with adding a few thousand to it each year.

    • FrogdancerJones

      That shows one of the advantages of choosing well and staying married – you have a backstop for financial things like buping up a spouse’s super. Nice work!

  6. Carolyn

    Planning ahead for major purchases is very smart, especially when you know what you want and you have done the research on the different brands of not just costs, but reliability and maintenance costs. I stopped going to the salon years ago when I had my guy take over cutting my hair for me. He also gives my two teen boys their haircuts every three weeks. It saves me over a grand a year with excellent results, never a bad haircut. So when the shops closed, we continued to get haircuts with excellent results every time on our regular schedule. A couple friends of mine visited a couple weekends ago to grill on the deck, and my best friend asked hubby to give her a trim on her mid back length hair, no big deal, he had cut her hair for her several times. My other friend mentioned that she needed a haircut as it had been months since her last one. She wanted her overgrown pixie cut quite short. So hubby put his skills with the clippers learned doing haircuts for my boys to good use and did as she asked. She was very pleased with the results, better than her stylist charges her $40 for. She posted selfie pictures on Facebook and got compliments, her stylist commented that she really liked the haircut, but was jealous that she had cheated on her. She assured her that she would be coming back to her salon, but her hair needed to be cut to tide her over. So I am definitely a firm believer that home haircuts are a great money saver.

    • FrogdancerJones

      What a handy skill to have!
      We have a similar thing in my family – except that it’s my sister who shaves my cavaliers.
      I give her a bottle of wine for it. Saves me at least $800/year!

      • Carolyn

        A bottle of wine. That is funny, but that is what my best friend brings to visit when she wants a trim. I like sweet as does she, hubby likes the dry varieties. He mentioned last year that as the stylist, he would like something too. I get a glass of wine set out for me as part of our routine when he cuts my hair, I take sips between the letting down of the sections and the cutting. It takes him about twenty minutes to trim my hair. My teen boys do not get wine, hubby uses the clippers with different attachments to do the back and sides, he does the clippers over the comb cutting on the longer hair on top and to blend it with the back and sides, plus the peanut clippers to do the sideburns and neckline. It takes him about ten minutes each. So he is pretty fast, and he does a great job, he does not just buzz them bald. My teen boys would not go for that. I figure it would cost at least $50 each time to get my two boys their haircuts at that same level of quality. So that would be $1700 a year, not including transportation costs or my time. Mine would easily be $100 or more because they would charge me a “long hair extra” charge for my elbow length hair. So there is $600 not spent, and I really do not trust the scissor happy stylists near my hair. I knew hubby was good, but having my friend post selfies and having her friends and her stylist giving her compliments on her hair definitely fed his ego. It was definitely not a quarantine haircut disaster that she would be wearing a hat to hide. She said that she never had her haircut done completely with clippers only, it was a new experience for her, but she liked how her haircut had a polished look, no steps and it laid nice without having to put a lot of product in it after she washed her hair. She said that she loved how It was a wash and go, no fuss haircut. My husband loves my hair long, and so do I, so I have no intention of ever getting mine cut short.

  7. Kerry

    We are planning a remodel project on our kitchen that is original from the 70’s. It will be done in phases to not overextend ourselves in spending or putting too much work on him. Given the current situation, we are planning to buy made in America appliances. The one brand we are seriously looking at is Thermador for a gas stove that also includes a high end dishwasher with the purchase. They were bought out by a German company, but they have a manufacturing plant in the US. There are other US made appliances as well. My concern is that we will be looking at replacing the refrigerator and I have read so many reviews about how the computerized circuit boards are failing and the cost of the replacement is nearly as much as a new refrigerator. Other home upgrades include replacing the original windows and remodeling the bathrooms. We plan to do the bathrooms as a DIY project as my husband has done plumbing, electrical and tile flooring projects previously with excellent results. The windows we will order and install ourselves, with the help of a couple friends we will pay to help as getting the windows lifted into place, plumbed and secured into place is not a one man job. He has replaced windows in a previous house and found their was no taping, drip edge, caulking or insulation around the windows, the builder had cut corners to save time and money. The good news is that it will cost thousands for the high quality fiberglass windows, but they won’t need to be replaced for decades. And it will be saving us money on heating.

    • FrogdancerJones

      By God! Maybe all I need is a husband!!!!
      Yours sounds very handy. I envy you having someone who can do all of those expensive tasks. My sons have started doing small jobs (which is still a huge help, don’t get me wrong) but a person who REALLY knows what they’re doing with the tools would be amazing.

      • Kerry

        He really gets into doing the projects. He looks at different ideas online, does his research, and draws out his plans on graph paper. The stove we are having installed because of the propane connection and they include installation as part of the cost. He could do the dishwasher, but installation cost is included. One thing he has his mind on which is fine with me is the deep farmhouse sink with the pot filler faucet, then have stone countertops to replace stained formica countertops. Flooring for the kitchen, we are still brainstorming ideas. We are buying better quality fixtures as the savings in labor costs more than make up for it. The main bathroom has an ugly gold tub enclosure with valves that are leaking. Hubby is planning a walk in shower with a pressure balancing temperature valve and then three separate valves for the overhead shower, spray hose and a faucet for filling buckets. He will be doing it with Pex which looks pretty simple to me, I can help to measure, run the pipe, cut and crimp on a ring. I am definitely looking at lighter, brighter colors as there are dark wood walls there. I want a vessel and a pump style faucet. I was looking at ideas where they do epoxy on the shower wall panels, and it looks like fun to do the different effects with colors, bringing out my artsy side. The floor tiles are an ugly reddish brown color, in good condition, so instead of ripping them up, I think doing the epoxy on the floor would be less expensive as well as labor saving. I will not touch anything electrical though. My job it to tell him to confirm the power is off when he shuts it off in the power panel. I do want an couple extra recess light units above the shower. I enjoy doing the projects, especially when it is time for shopping, picking out fixtures, colors and appliances. He definitely has the know how and experience, plus has invested in the right tools to do the jobs. The best part about DIY projects is that you are not waiting around all day for a contractor, wondering if and when they will show up and then not seeing them for days while they are trying to squeeze in other jobs. And the part he, and I as well love is seeing the finished results. And then posting pictures on Facebook. When he did the oak floor in the master bedroom, we got a lot of likes including one from a friend who owns a flooring business that was impressed with his work and joked that he hoped he would not be his competitor. I think DIY projects are great fun as well as big money savers. But as you mentioned, you need to know what you’re doing.

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