Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Consumerism (Page 1 of 8)

Travelling for 5 weeks with only ONE dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderful outfit to travel in. The dress is Sierra, a swing dress that can easily be used as a pinafore, meaning that it would never actually touch my skin, thus cutting down on washing.

The real beauty of this dress is that it’s made from merino wool, which means that it’s odour-resistant, easy to wash, crumple-free and absolutely comfortable to wear.

This makes it stellar for travel, especially if, like me, you choose to only take carry-on and so space is at a premium. Having just one outfit makes carry-on travelling a breeze.

Obviously I was very protective of Sierra, being extra-careful where messy foods were concerned. Before my travel I had to spot-clean a few times, but while I was travelling it was never an issue.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How and why did I choose to wear just the one dress – not just for my 5-week holiday – but for a full 100 days?

For those who don’t know, I began a 100-Day Challenge run by Wool&, an American company that makes merino clothing. What interested me in buying one of their dresses – after I thought about it for 2 years – was that merino is an excellent fabric for travel.

I went to Antarctica last year and bought merino long-sleeved tees to travel in, wear on the ice and on the ship, and those tees were absolutely brilliant. Due to this, I decided that I was going to take the plunge and invest in a Wool& dress and do their 100-days challenge.

Because after all, why not? I love a challenge and a US$100 voucher is nothing to be sneezed at. Having two dresses would make a perfect travel capsule.

I also decided that the easiest way to succeed at this would be to schedule my end date to be the day I got home from my 5-week trip to England and Ireland. If I gave myself no alternative outfits to wear, I’d have no option but to succeed! I counted back the days and the 100 days began on July 1.

Before my trip, I treated the dress as I would anything else. I was protective of her – I wore an apron when cooking to eliminate any oil spots and I was careful with sauces and such. Spot cleaning is easy – I just used a bar of Velvet soap and handwashed the area.

Just before my trip I washed the dress by using the velvet soap, immersing in water and then rolling her into a towel and standing on it. I hung her up in a well-ventilated spot and the dress was dry by morning!


What was also incredible was that before I went on the trip I was teaching secondary students. Not one of them noticed that I was wearing the same dress every day.

While travelling, I was very protective of the dress.

“Not near THE DRESS!” I’d say if any ketchup or creamy sauces were handed around near me, and it became a running joke. I didn’t have to spot clean once and I only gave her one full wash towards the end of the trip, not because I thought she needed it but because I thought that it was a good thing to do.

(The merino tops were hung up every night and spot-washed in the armpits every 3 or 4 wears, usually when I had 2 nights in a room, just to make sure that they’d be dry when I needed to pack my case again.)

Merino is definitely the best fabric for travel.

Right at the end of my 100 days I noticed a couple of pills on the fabric where the strap on my travel bag was running against it. You can see the size of my travel bag in the photo above – it’s large and was quite heavy some days.

I don’t think this is a problem – I worked the dress hard and if there a tiny bit of pilling at the end of the challenge, then so be it.

The clothes I took on the trip were as follows :

1 x Wool& dress.

4 x merino tees.

3 x undies.

2 x bra.

2 x black tights.

1 x walking boots.

1 x runners.

1 x woolen cowl.

1 x woolen beanie.

1 x light raincoat.

1 x warm fleece jacket.

That’s all I wore for 5 weeks and, to be honest, I only needed the fleece jacket once when we went to the Cliffs of Moher. I’d think about leaving it home next time, depending on where I go next.

I really enjoyed just having carry-on luggage. It was so good to simply get off the plane and walk straight to the exits. Wheeling it around on the streets was also very easy.

At the end of my trip, when my carry-on case was stuffed to the gills, I had to walk up 3 sets of stairs to get to my room in an old hotel in England. I don’t think I would have been able to get up there if I’d had a traditional 30KG suitcase!

So all in all, I’m loving the Sierra as a travel dress. Having the one outfit that I could dress up or down as I pleased made the whole trip so easy.

Will I wear her in my ordinary life? Maybe. I’m actually liking the thought of folding her up and putting her in my carry-on case, ready for the next trip next year.

Alaska and Canada – I’m looking at you!

Who lived the better life? It all depends…

Last week I knocked back a day of teaching to have lunch with an old friend. I’ve known Max since Evan26 was Evan2. Back in those days I was struggling to keep my head above water financially, while Max was single, with only one son who lived primarily with his mother. In other words, his paycheque was his own to do with as he would.

Max likes to socialise by going out for meals, so back in those days he’d sweep me off for dinner every now and then and I’d have the (rare to me) pleasure of eating a meal not cooked for the tastebuds of toddlers. Our lives have always been very different.

Max is really into Eastern religion, meditation and yoga. He travels widely, usually to sunny, warm places where he can soak up the sun and relax. It seemed to me that he was out and about nearly every day of the week, going to parties, dinners and lunches, which was a vast contrast to my life of being stuck at home with my 4 small boys all the time. Delayed gratification was never a thing he was a fan of, whereas to me, it was all I had to hope for.

Fast forward twenty-five years.

The four kids I was raising on my own are now off my hands, (pretty much.) All of them are living productive, creative lives and two are settled with long-term partners. I’ve reached financial independence and now, after decades of being tied to staying at home with the family while they were young, I’m now finally free to travel and spend my days how I choose.

I’m happy. I’m turning 60 next week and I’m looking forward to the next delicious stage of my life.

Max has now retired at 69 years of age. He’s on the Aged pension, living in a unit he’s paying off. He lives with his son, who is now 40 and is a recovering heroin addict. Max would love to sell or rent out his unit and live overseas in a warm climate, living off the proceeds of the sale or rent. However, he’s stuck, because his son has nowhere else to go because he’s unable to work.

Max has chosen to remain pretty much computer-illiterate. This has left him as an easy mark, which some woman found out when she scammed him out of 16K recently over the phone. Why does this happen to people who can least afford it?

He knows that he’s left it very late to improve his finances and he’s flailing around, trying to put things in place to produce an income for the future.

He put a few grand into cryptocurrency, which of course he doesn’t understand.

He’s excited about the 20% per MONTH returns that he’s been promised. I asked him if he personally had seen returns like this. The night before we met for lunch, he received his first dividend payment, so he thought, “Oh, this works,” so he put in another 10K. I thought, ‘Isn’t this a classic way they reel people in?‘ He said that the woman he works through has just under 1 Billion US dollars that she’s looking after. I thought, ‘If that’s true, why would she be interested in your piddly 10K???”

He also paid 5K to do a course in currency trading, which after he joined he realised happens on computers, which he hates and has no idea how to start using, so he’s letting a friend do the coursework. They plan to split any profits the friend ends up making.

He’s fearful of the future and is clearly envious of what has happened in my life. There were a few remarks here and there with references to investments etc. that made me feel a bit uncomfortable. He sounded almost bitter at times about how his life is looking, especially compared to mine.

It’s as if someone has flipped the coin of our lives and we’ve swapped sides.

“You’ve done really well, Frogdancer,” he said as we were eating. “You don’t have to work and … you’ve got excellent karma. You deserve it all. But… (he sighed), I’m not happy. I feel like I’m trapped and I wish… I wish I’d done things differently.”

I was telling this to Ryan28 when I got home. He’s picked up my frugal, valuist ways and he was nodding sagely. Then I asked him a question:

“If Max and I had each died at say… 45, who would you say had the better life?”

“Huh,” Ryan28 said, struck. He thought for a second, then said, “Max. He would have had the better life.”

“Exactly,” I said. “The whole thing’s a gamble. If we were able to know how long we’ve got, we could plan things out. But obviously, it doesn’t work that way. He enjoyed life when he was younger, whereas I’m enjoying it more as I’m older. It’s that whole Grasshopper and the Ant fable.

“The ant is busy putting things in place for the future, while the grasshopper just mucks around, enjoying the present. It’s all wonderful for the ant if he lives long enough to enjoy the wintertime when he can enjoy the fruits of his labour. But what if he gets stepped on and squashed just before winter hits? He’s toiled his whole life for no reward. Whereas, the grasshopper may starve to death in winter, but he’s had one hell of a happy life up until then. It all depends on how long you live.”

“I guess it’s all about balance,” said Ryan28. “Working the future but doing fun things now.”

I thought it was an important thing for Ryan28 to think about. He and I are probably too much inclined to practice delayed gratification. I want him to live his life while he’s young! (To be fair, so far it’s worked bloody brilliantly for me, but that’s not a guaranteed outcome for everyone.)

Getting back to when we were sitting at lunch, Max looked so defeated and sad. I leaned forward and said, “Yes, I’m in a really good spot right now. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned: it’s that life is a series of waves. You’re up and everything is going fine; then something happens and you’re sliding down.

“At the moment, I’m up and you’re down. But something will happen, either to me or the kids, and I’ll slide down that curve. You’re down, but something will happen and you’ll be on the upward swing again. I’m really conscious of that, so when I’m in a good spot, like now, I consciously enjoy it. because I know that it’s not going to last. I may as well enjoy it while I can!”

This appealed to Max and he brightened up and started talking about how Eckhart Tolle talks about similar ideas. I haven’t read any Tolle but Max is right into it. This put him in a better frame of mind and we chatted happily until he dropped me back at home.

I found it an interesting thought experiment. We in the FI/RE community are so good at delayed gratification. I think I’m the Queen of it, myself! And it’s mostly a very good thing. However, changing one thing that we all have no control over and looking at life through a different lens… sometimes a bit of immediate gratification along the way might also be a very good thing.

We only have “one wild and precious life.” We have to make choices based around immovable things that we have no control over. Due to my situation with raising 4 boys on my own, I was relentless about working for the future to provide the financial security for my family that we didn’t have. I had to consciously teach myself how to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the little things in life as they happen. I envy the people who seem to be born with a foot in both camps.

So who has lived the better life? As Ryan28 said, if you look at the early part of our lives, Max definitely comes out on top. I hope and believe that, when we look at our lives through the lens of another couple of decades of living, that we’ll both be happy with the paths we’ve taken.


Here is the poem that I found that quote from, in the paragraph above. I love it:

THE SUMMER DAY by Mary Oliver.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Sometimes it’s ok to be extravagant.

Sometimes on this whole ‘Financial Independence’ journey, things seem to drag along without anything changing for ages. Then something happens to drag you back into reality and makes you realise just how far you’ve come.

This happened to me yesterday.

Those of you who’ve read my ‘About’ page or have been reading my personal blog for a while would know that for many years the boys and I were, not to put it too bluntly, on the bare bones of our arses financially after I left their father. It took me almost two decades to fully financially recover from that (correct) decision. Raising four boys on your own isn’t a cheap exercise!

It has left a deep mark on how I approach most spending decisions in my life.

Things have gradually eased up over the last few years. I’ve discovered that as a spender, I’m what you’d call a ‘Valuist.’ I’ll cut expenses to the bone with things that aren’t exciting to me, but with things like travel – I’m happy to spend.

But this ‘valuist’ spending has all been scheduled and organised. Until yesterday.

Remember how I told you that my dear friend Scott organised an amazing lunch and walking tour in London to celebrate my birthday? I went to Flight Centre yesterday to arrange to push back my arrival in London from the 6th September (my actual birthday) to a few days earlier. It occurred to me that even ONE flight delay would cause me amazing stress and would probably mean that Scott would be sitting in the fabulous restaurant he booked, all on his own while sobbing uncontrollably with loneliness and disappointment, while I’d be sitting on a plane miles above him, circling the tarmac waiting to land. I would be BESIDE MYSELF, which is not a great way to celebrate a birthday.

I realised that it’d be best to fly into London a couple of days earlier to make darned sure that doesn’t happen. An added bonus would be that with some extra days under my belt, I’d be almost over the jet lag by then. Jet lag hit me hard last time – on my first night in London in 2015 Scott and I were in a cafe having an early dinner at 6 PM and I literally stopped myself from face-planting in my dinner. I woke up with my nose an inch away from disaster. I don’t want to do that during lunch.

Turns out that yes – I could change my booking. No problem.

It also turned out that it would cost $1,400 to do so.

I know. I know. I was horrified too.

I won’t lie… the possibility of backing out and hoping that ‘Fortunate Frogdancer’ would get me to London on time DID flicker across my mind. But luck is a fickle mistress. I’m convinced that the reason I’m so lucky is because I don’t rely on her – so she just pops up all the time to give me a smile and a wave. Murphy’s Law would probably ensure that I’d have 47 flight delays and I wouldn’t get to London until sometime in 2025.

So I smiled through gritted teeth and gave the guy my credit card.

“There’ll be a fee attached to using your card,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”

“At this stage, I don’t care,” I said. “I’m committed. Just lay it on me!”

The fee was $7. Ok, still ridiculous for just using a credit card. But I was still reeling from the flight cost, so it was just an incidental. No biggie.

The thing is – it wasn’t so long ago that there is NO WAY I would have; or could have, made such a luxury purchase. It’s a huge unexpected expense, especially when you add in 3 nights of extra accommodation in London before I’m set to go to Corinna’s place, which means that it’ll be around the 2K mark – not counting food and entertainment costs on top of that.

This is pretty much a sentimental decision.

For most of my adult life, this would have been a definite no-go.

But now? Sure, I wasn’t happy about spending such a large amount to gain three extra days. But could I afford it?

Well… yes.

Did I want to do it?


So I did it.

When I wake up in London on my birthday, I’ll be leaving first thing in the morning to get to Corinna’s place before she leaves for work and I’ll collect her key and drop off my carry-on case. Then I’ll probably wander around until Scott’s train arrives and we’ll saunter off to lunch together. It’ll be chilled, relaxed, and not filled with tension and anxiety.

I know I’ll be glad when my alarm goes off on that Wednesday morning and I have the whole day stretching before me — the start of a whole new decade going around the sun for me. Airport queues and possible flight delays on the way over will all be a thing of the past. I’ll be dewy-eyed and jet lag free. It’ll be fantastic.

Sometimes you don’t fully realise that you’ve reached a new stage in your financial independence story until something like this happens.

I don’t have to work to earn the money for these luxuries that I’ve been paying for. It’s ok for me to get something that I really want. I can afford it. This is a totally new mind space for me to be in.

So once I got home, I totally lost my mind and took Ryan27 to Ikea. I bought $800 worth of storage shelves and drawers for the sewing room. Ryan27 bought a big new gaming desk, which is something that he didn’t intend to buy until he saw it. They’re all being delivered today. (I hope he’s good with an Allen key…)

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t have the sort of wealth that can sustain this level of spending every day! But I’ve reached the stage where I can buy things that I need and/or are important to me without stressing over every dollar.

It’s quite incredible to contemplate. Past Frogdancer, leaving her marriage with $60 cash and 4 boys under 5, would never have believed that in 26 years we’d be in this position.

It’s a humbling thing to experience.

Dad joke of the day:

I’ve trained my dog to go and fetch me a bottle of wine.

She’s a Bordeaux collie.

Isn’t our corner of the internet the best?

My son Evan26 is performing his first solo show called Long Play in Carlton for the Melbourne Comedy Festival. His girlfriend Jenna is doing the tech stuff and they’re working hard and having a ball. I went to see it on Tuesday night and I’ll be back on Sunday night with my cousins and Ryan28 to see it again. He’s a very funny guy and the show is well worth seeing.

It’s a comedic music lecture about how to make the perfect music album. He’s been very clever about how he’s written it – I was wondering if I’d get all of the music references, not being totally up with the groovy new songs of the younger folk, but it was all good. The jokes are funny whether you know the artists he’s talking about or not. That’s my boy!

(I can’t rave like mad about it because people will get deeply suspicious, thinking that I’m only saying that it’s funny because he’s my son. It’s true. He IS my son. But it’s also true that it’s very funny.)

Anyway, last night I was at one with the couch after finishing my 10-week teaching contract, watching The Hunger Games because I didn’t want anything that I needed to concentrate on, when I got a series of texts from Evan26:

OMG!!!! Our worlds have collided! Of course I rang him straight away and the three of us had an excited chat while they were in the tram on their way to the Performers Lounge for the festival. How incredible!!!!

(Also incredible that someone actually reads this blog. I was starting to wonder…) LOL.

His last text made me laugh, because we were all absolutely losing our shit when we were on the phone. What a thing to happen!

I was going to put up a post about this in the morning, asking, “Own up now… who are you?” but Katie beat me to it. I woke up to her comment this morning:

Thank you so much Katie! Also, thanks for raising a son who is obviously really on the ball. I’m pretty sure this is Evan26’s first experience of being recognised on the street. What a thrill!

I just love our little corner of the internet. We have such lovely people here.

Evan26’s show: Long Play. From now until April 13th ( which is the day before he’ll be a groomsman at David29’s wedding.)

Jenna’s show: Underwire. From Tuesday 18th April to Saturday 22nd April.

Evan26 is on stage for both shows, so they had to make sure they were scheduled for different weeks. Busy, busy, busy!

Dad joke of the day:

Less than a week to go!

This time next week I’ll be in Santiago, Chile, all going well. These last few days before I go, I’m planning on starting to pack and buying the last few things I need to get before I go.

One is a waterproof case for my phone. I’ve decided to buy a waterproof pouch rather than a case, so after doing some research I’ve elected to buy this one. The reviews are good and I think it’ll do the job well. My quilting mat came in handy when I had to measure the phone in inches!

I also bought a sim card for my phone which will work in both Chile and Argentina. Surprisingly, most of the sims I looked at only had one or the other, which was annoying. My travel agent advised me to get one when I was there, but as I’m arriving in Santiago in the middle of the night, I didn’t think there’d be too many phone stores open. Better to be safe than sorry. The sim should be arriving today. I’ll take it with me and swap the sim cards over on the plane. It just occurred to me that I’ll need to learn how to get the sim card out in the first place.

You’ve already seen my pee bottle, which has traumatised people both here and on FB. Steveark’s comment on my previous post made me laugh! I’m hoping to bring back the bottle untouched by human urine, which will mean I’ll have a very useful souvenir to remind me of the trip. It will have been with me on the ice on every excursion. You can bet I’ll be reminded of Antarctica every time I use it.

I’m a big fan of buying useful souvenirs.

This olive oil container is from San Gimignano in Italy. Every single time I pull it out from the pantry I’m reminded of that beautiful village on top of the hill. When my friend Scott and I were going through security at Paris airport, we were looking at my case as it went through the x-ray. “Is that YOURS? What on earth have you bought?” he said as the image of what looked to be a miniature watering can glided by.

I also have a very cheap-looking spatula that I bought in a supermarket in Pyongyang. I was there, mingling with the locals as they were buying their groceries, when I saw it and thought, “I’ve been meaning to get a spatula for ages!” It’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, but I know where I bought it and I love using it.

Every Christmas I blog about my Christmas tree which has decorations from all over the world on it. No one has a tree quite like mine!

So having a water bottle that has travelled with me to the end of the world and back seems like a very good fit.

I still need to buy some lip balm. This morning I was looking at the blog 43 Blue Doors. Bonnie and her partner Trin retired in (I think) 2016 and have been slow travelling around the world ever since. It’s a fabulous blog with incredible photography and detailed descriptions of the places they’re travelling.

I posted about ‘My New Goal’ in October 2020, when I had 3 references to Antarctica in the one day. Up until then, I’d never even dreamed about going there. Bonnie wrote a post about her trip, which was the third nudge from the universe I received that day. This morning I looked at the page again and played the video of the chinstrap penguin colony. The sound of the wind made it obvious why lip balm is on the list as a necessity.

I hope Penguindancer! still checks in here and knows that I’m finally going. She was working in Antarctica and used to read my blog. If it wasn’t for her, I doubt I’d be going.

Today I’m going to be getting out my itinerary and hopefully booking a couple of day tours for Santiago and the surrounding countryside. I will only see the inside of the airport in Buenos Ares, but I’ll be spending a couple of days in Santiago and I think that being ferried around in a group might be the most efficient way to cover as much ground as possible.

Unless I buy a horrifically expensive souvenir, I think that all of the major expenses for my trip have already been paid for. I have tiny slivers of time on either side of the cruise where I probably won’t be spending a lot, especially if I’m on tours, and once I’m on the ship everything except alcohol and souvenirs are taken care of. I’m hoping that my pesos for Chile and Argentina will be enough for taxis and food, while the euros and my debit/credit cards will take care of everything else.

I’m known for being frugal in most areas of my life, but travelling overseas isn’t one of them. Being able to see and do everything I want when I travel is one of the reasons why I’m so frugal in other areas. I like to get bang for my buck! So who knows what I’ll end up spending?

I’m already starting to look at where I’ll travel in 2023…

… I have just one continent to go to complete the set.

Dad joke of the day:

Frugal Friday: Having fun with frugality.

Can you guess what I made yesterday by looking at these ingredients?

If you guessed soap, you’re bang on the money!

A quick glance back at the frogblog shows that I’ve been making soap for over a decade now. When I first began, I tried just about every recipe that I could lay my hands on. I made green tea soap, coffee soap, olive oil/Castile soap… you name it, I gave it a go.

For a brief time, I even had teachers at school buying it from me.

But now I stick to one very basic but effective recipe that I first saw on a defunct blog many years ago. It rarely fails and even if it does, it’s easy to fix.

But why would I bother to make soap in the first place? After all, basic soap is cheap to buy. I clearly don’t NEED to make soap to save a few pennies – after all, I retired by choice 2 years ago. I’m not short of the pennies required to keep myself clean. So why would I still choose to do it?

One of the main reasons I find myself coming back to doing this whenever my soap stocks start getting low is that homemade soap is very good for the skin. Commercial soap makers take out the glycerin that’s formed when soap is made, because glycerin is lucrative to sell on its own. My soap has its own glycerin within it, so the soap moisturises as well as cleans. I like that.

I also really like to have pretty soap put aside for little gifts. A bar of homemade soap and a hand-knitted washcloth is something that I like to give when I go to a blog meet or when a friend has a birthday. These handmade gifts, wrapped in brown paper and string, look great.

The third reason is that it’s personally very satisfying to produce something useful from nothing but a random bunch of ingredients. The same can be said of knitting and quilting, I guess. Being able to point at something that now exists in the world that wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t here is a nice feeling. (Pointing at the boys just doesn’t have the same effect…!)

Another reason why I like to do it is that I can personalise each batch. This batch of soap smells like eucalyptus. I’ve sprinkled dried cornflower and calendula petals over 3/4 of the top, but I’ve left a strip on the side free of petals because Ryan27 is a hairy guy and he doesn’t like to pick petals from his chest hair after having a shower. Fair enough. Sometimes I add rolled oats or poppy seeds (lovely and scratchy), food colourings, and different scents. Every batch is different.

The last reason is a hangover from the days when the boys and I were very, very broke and I had to stretch every dollar. Anything that I could do to stop a visit to the supermarket was a way to save money. Growing some of my own food and making things like soap is a way to limit setting foot in the supermarket and spending more money. I like the discipline of this, even though I no longer need to do it for financial survival.

It’s funny how the things that I once did to save even a few cents towards big things like the mortgage or the boys’ education are now the things that I choose to do for fun.

Smething that I was really looking forward to when Tom30 left home and Ryan27 was housesitting was how I was going to use up the food I had in the freezer and the zombie apocalypse cupboard during the 9 weeks when I’d be living on my own before I went away to Antarctica. During the lockdowns I’d bumped up the stores a bit and it seemed like now was the perfect opportunity to eat them down a bit.

I decided that I was going to keep supermarket visits to an absolute minimum and I’d spin out the meat I had by making vegetarian meals, using up the piles of lentils and beans I had hanging around. I was going to use up the frozen veggies I had – about 5 packets – and utilise what I had growing in the garden rather than buying fresh greens.

I have lots of longlife milk and milk powder, so that wouldn’t be a problem, though eggs, carrots and potatoes would be on the shopping list. I have heaps of stewed fruit that I’ve frozen as ice cubes. I have enough rice and bakers flour to sink a small ship, so all in all, I was in a great position to live out of my pantry for quite a long time.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. How long could I make everything last? This was going to be interesting! I didn’t set any specific targets… I just wanted to wing it and see how far I got.

Then two days later Ryan27 moved back home.


Now don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy that he’s happy to share a roof with me, but my frugal experiment went straight out the window. He wants to make a Mongolian sauce for me to try that he discovered when he was away, so I found myself at Aldi yesterday buying some broccoli that he wanted.

THIS WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IF I WAS ON MY OWN!!! I’D DO WITHOUT THE BROCCOLI!!! I know I could have refused to buy it, but I don’t think it’s fair to inflict my own little frugal games on unsuspecting housemates.

Another frugal entertainment is my reading challenge. This is in its third year and I LOVE it! In a nutshell, I have to pay over 2K in local council fees each year. I decided to try and “make’ those rates back by reading over 2K’s worth of library books, which are paid for by my local council.

Since I started it, the only books I’ve bought have been a couple of recipe books. I had no idea that my local library was so very well-stocked. I rarely go into my local branch and browse. Most of the time, I hear about a novel I’d like to read, jump on the library’s website and do a search. It’s a rare day when the library doesn’t have a copy of the book I want.

I’ve read literally thousands of dollars worth of books since I began this challenge. Obviously, I wouldn’t have bought all of those books myself, but I certainly would have bought quite a few. I’m addicted to reading and I always have 2 or 3 books on the go at any one time.

This challenge is fun. I have read so many books that I never would have bought for myself, I have the goal of meeting a dollar amount in a 12 month period so I can’t slacken off, and also have the satisfaction of gradually, book by book, ticking down to meet my goal.

I keep track of it on the side of this blog. It’s practically the only Maths that I enjoy.

Scrap quilts? I can spend hours upon happy hours creating quilts from fabric that’s been hanging around here for ever. Cheap as chips but when the quilts are finished, they look a million dollars. I love entertaining myself so happily and so cheaply.

I guess it’s that, as I get older, I’m getting more and more intolerant of waste. Waste of resources, waste of time, waste of money. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when I can reduce any sort of waste is a precious one.

I don’t see why, just because I’ve reached financial independence, I should deny myself that feeling. Feeling accomplished and satisfied makes me happy. Frugality ticks so many boxes for me and – lets be frank – I didn’t retire just to turn around and give up one of the very things that make me happy.

Twenty-four hours later I unwrapped the soap and cut it into bars. Ryan27’s ‘pure’ unpetaled soap is already on the cake rack. It takes 6 weeks to dry before it’s ready to use, so once it was all cut, I carried it to the laundry where it’s safely tucked away, slowly curing.

I’ll probably have enough soap here for personal use and for gifts to last at least 6 months. It’s a small thing, but it fills my heart.

Dad joke of the day:

I had to read this one twice before I got it!

Do bad things come in threes?

So as you know, last week I not-so-cleverly put my phone in the washing machine and put it through a full wash cycle. Even though front-load washing machines are said to be gentle on clothes, it turns out that they’re not very gentle on phones.

The next day I went to the Apple store at Southland and replaced it. At first I was shown the brand-new editions, with the fabulous cameras. The woman serving me was very enthusiastic about how great my photos in Antarctica would be. I was very tempted… but just as I opened my mouth to say yes to a $1,300 phone, it occurred to me that if I hadn’t washed my phone, I’d be taking my year-old SE to Antarctica and I’d be perfectly happy with it.

So I walked out with an $800 phone, saving myself $500.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was driving home from work when suddenly a strange woofling noise filled the car.

‘That better not be a flat tyre,’ I thought. But it was.

The RACV came in under 10 minutes, which was a surprise. Quickest response time ever! When he changed my tyre, putting the dinky little spare tyre on in its place, I asked him to have a look at the back left tyre.

“I keep getting notifications on my dashboard that it’s under-inflated, but whenever I pump it up the notification stays.”

He had a look and spotted something metal embedded in the tread.

“You’d better have the tyre place take a look at it,” he said.

I hate driving with a spare tyre on the car, so I drove until I found a tyre place. I ordered two new tyres and was in the waiting room, quietly reading, when the guy came back.

“You’re very lucky,” he said. “That back left tyre had a puncture along the side of it. I don’t know how it hasn’t blown out by now.”

Oof. Maybe the “bad luck” of having a flat tyre was actually good luck in disguise? Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

But still, the question remains. So far 2022 has been a very expensive year, what with appliances dying, children needing huge cash injections to buy houses and me doing silly things like washing phones. So far I’ve spent nearly 28K MORE than I’d usually spend – and that’s not including my trip to Antarctica.

So I’m classing any unexpected expense as bad luck.

We all know bad luck comes in threes. It’s a scientific fact.

So is it: 1 Washed phone 2 A tyre 3 Another tyre?

Or is it: 1 Washed phone 2 Replacing tyres 3 Something yet to be seen????

I’m really hoping it’s the first one. Keep your fingers crossed! (I’m sure that science says that crossing fingers helps bring good luck.)

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a medieval spy?

Sir Veillance.

What my phone has taught me about Financial Independence.

Yesterday I got to work and realised that I left my phone at home.

That wasn’t a big drama – I prefer to surf the internet on a laptop rather than my phone. I only use the phone for calls, texts and photos anyway. So I got on with my day, knowing that I’d pick it up from my bedside table when I got home and catch up on anything I’d missed.

But when I got home it wasn’t there. The bedside table was bare.

I knew it should be there. I’d woken up to the alarm that morning. I started looking through the house.


I went out to the car, thinking maybe it’d fallen out of my bag in the morning.


I messaged Ryan27 on FB, asking him to call my number.

He messaged back, saying that it went straight to voicemail.


Well, I couldn’t keep on looking for it. I had things to do. I decided to hang out the washing I’d put on before leaving for the day.

My first clue that something was badly awry was when I opened the washing machine door and saw my sodden phone case sitting on top of the washing.

My phone was lying underneath all of the clothes. Screen smashed, totally dead. As a doornail.

I’ve been an Apple person for YEARS. Yes, they’re expensive as all get-out, but I like the way they synch and I’m used to the way they work.

I’m like the people in the meme at the top of the page; when I get a new phone, I keep it for at least 5 years. Hell, one of my Apple laptops is a 2010 Mac that I bought secondhand 6 years ago. She’s still going strong.

So when I bought a brand new phone LAST YEAR for around $800 I was cool with it. By the time I was ready to trade it in I’d have had many years of photos, texts and calls for around $160/year. Still a biggish cost, but not unreasonable.

Except when I have to buy another one a year later. Suddenly that $800 phone has become very expensive.

I won’t deny that I was very sad last night. What with Tom30’s house deposit, the expensive appliances that died, helping out a couple of the other kids and now this – it’s been an expensive year. Around 28K of extra expenses… not counting my Antarctica holiday in December. The last thing I needed was for this to happen!

The worst thing was that I had no one to blame but myself.

I hate that.

When I posted about what I did on FB, I had people message me, offering old phones I could use until I could get myself a new one.

That’s when it struck me.

Being financially independent means that wrecking my phone is an inconvenience, not a financial tragedy. I’ll be without a phone for another 5 hours. By 4 PM I’ll be walking through the Apple shop doors, looking to buy a replacement.

Being financially independent means that I have the money to pay for it.

Will I be happy about having to do it? Hell no! Financial independence doesn’t mean that people suddenly become happy to throw money away.

But will I be glad that I put in the work for all those years to get to a point where I can simply walk into a shop and replace it without having to stress about the money?

Hell yes.

When people think about being financially independent, it’s the big things they visualise. Retirement, overseas trips and a paid-off house. And yes, those things are there for the taking.

But the enduring joy of it is actually the way it smooths the ups and downs of life – especially the downs. It turns out that the old saying, “If money can fix it then it isn’t really a problem” is true… but only if you have the money to fix it.

Becoming financially free is not easy. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Dad joke of the day:

My boyfriend and I are in a serious relationship. We haven’t laughed for 2 years.

So how are my challenges going?

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.

(Here’s a link to the chicken stock paste recipe that I mentioned yesterday. You make veggie stock paste by simply removing the chicken thigh. )

Dad joke of the day:

Why is it called a “dad-bod” and not a “father figure”?

Shop smarter and stop wastage.

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:

  1. Shop smarter, and
  2. Stop wastage.

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?

A reptile dysfunction.

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