Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Delayed Gratification (Page 1 of 10)

Little Adventure #19: January 2024 – Kangaroo Island. (Episode 6.)

This picture was taken at Stokes Bay at 8:01 in the morning. I woke up that morning at 5:30 and remembered what the guy in the Sculpture Walk told me about the beach. I needed to be at a gin distillery at 11 – no way I was going to miss that! – so I had plenty of time to spare for a drive.

Besides, I thought it might be nice to be on a beach soon after sunrise. I can’t do this at home. The little woofs bark so much as they’re getting ready for a walk that I’d wake the neighbours.

The drive was a little over an hour and I was a bit worried I’d skittle a wallaby, but that didn’t happen. Though I DID see one bounding beside the road as I was coming out of American River, so that was exciting.

The top photo is of the beach that the Sculpture Park guy said that people assume is the real beach. It’s pretty enough, but over to the right, just in front of the cliffs, I saw a yellow sign.

When I got out of the car I met a man coming back from that way. I asked if that was the way to the beach.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said, ” you gotta go over there through the tunnel. It’s a bit hard to know where to go at the moment because there’s no one here . Normally it’s swarming with tourists.”

“Ah, tourists. Hate those guys!” I said.

Then, like the tourist I am, I set off towards the tunnel.

I thought you might like to come through the tunnel with me, so I snapped shots as I went along.

Here was where I took off my sandals.

I’m short.

It was fun squeezing through and under the rocks.

This walk went on for a while…

… but could it be???


This is what I saw as I emerged from the rocks. A secluded stretch of beach.

And not a soul in sight.

I began walking. Slowly, just drinking it all in.

Look at the colours!

I looked back at where I’d emerged from the rocks. Just as I did, the clouds parted and the sun shone.

All I could hear was the waves rolling in.

It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know what time it was, so I grabbed my phone and saw that it was 8:01.

If I was still at work, I would be driving along the freeway. I would have been aiming at that time to be at the end of the freeway, ready to turn right onto Warrigal Road. My car wouls be surrounded by hundreds of other cars, their drivers all intent on gettig to work as fast as possible.

Instead, I’m on this beach. By myself, in total peace and quiet.

It’s glorious.

I’m the only one on this beach. It’s crazy. People are driving to work right now, and then there are other people doing things like this.

To be fair, I suppose I couldn’t have been here if I didn’t drive all those years to work. But walking along the sand, watching the waves roll in and the clouds floating along the sky, it made all the frugal sacrifices I made in years gone by absolutely worth it.

I’m glad I played the long game of delayed gratification.

This is a real treat. It’s something really special. I’m really glad I stopped to talk to that guy in the sculpture park otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered coming here. As you know, I can go to the beach near me anytime I want.

I’m glad I came.

I created a memory.

As I was driving back to town towards the gin distillery, I saw a sign and turned off the main drag. Kangaroo Island as its own painted silo!

This angle shows the Glossy Black Cockatoo

… while this fearsome-looking bloke is wholly appropriate to the island.

Next stop – GIN.

Dad joke of the day:

So how does it feel to switch gears on your superannuation account?

September last year I turned 60. I celebrated by taking a 5 week holiday to England and Ireland, staying with friends nearly every step of the way. It was a fantastic holiday that will live on in my memories for the rest of my life. But it was significant for another reason. In Australia, when you turn 60 you can access your superannuation tax-free.

I really don’t want to work again, not even as a highly-paid relief teacher, so it was definitely time to get moving on switching gears from Accumulation to Pension modes on my super.

It was a strange experience, and one that I thought might be interesting for others to read. Most of my readers here are still working and so are still in the Accumulation mode of building up superannuation and investment portfolios. What’s it like to stop doing that and start pulling money out of these accounts instead? And not little dribbles of dollars.


It was a strange feeling, but not as weird as I thought it might be for a naturally frugal person like me. I thought I might have to have a cup of tea and a nice lie down after setting it all up, but that wasn’t the case.

For the last 3 years, ever since I retired at the end of 2020, I’ve lived off a mixture of dividends, sales of shares and CRT wages. I retired at 57, so I had to live off a financial bridge to cover myself to the age of 60 when I could access my super tax-free.

A couple of months after I arrived home from my trip, I sat at my laptop, trying to access an online tool from Hostplus to see what my options were. It seems that they’ve deactivated it, so there was no alternative but to speak to someone on the phone.

Before I did this, I re-read Noel Whitaker’s book on Super, just to make sure that I didn’t sound like a goose on the phone. This was actually a good idea, as it enabled the conversation to flow far faster than if the Hostplus consultant had to explain Every Little Thing to me.

Talking with the consultant was fantastic, as you have to fill in a form inline and there were a couple of times when I wouldn’t have known which alternative to choose, but she walked me through it. Clearly, she knew which questions were the problematic ones and so knew how to guide me. Phew!

I was amazed at how flexible it was. Bottom line, I know that it’s my money, but I suppose that a lifetime of being told how much I’m going to earn, how much tax I’m going to pay etc has made me used to having restrictions.

Switching from an Accumulation fund to a Pension fund is pretty much total freedom. If I wanted, I could withdraw every last cent and spend it however I choose. Yikes! I’m not going to do this, obviously.

But I have the freedom to do it, which is fair enough. It is my money, after all. And truly, if I’ve reached the age of 60 and I haven’t yet learned fiscal responsibility, then I probably deserve the consequences of every disastrous mistake I’d go on to make.

I had to nominate the percentage payment that I’d be taking out of the fund. Basically, every year after you switch to a pension fund, you HAVE to take money out of it. The lowest percentage is 4%, with the choice of the actual percentage that you take out being up to you. I chose to take the minimum out, which still nets me a healthy 50% of the amount I want to live off (including expensive travel.)

I have other investments that will spit out what I need to make up the shortfall. And if they don’t? Then a simple phone call means that I can change the payment details. Or I could live more frugally, which, knowing me, would probably be the way I’d go.

I can change this percentage at any time. I can also take lump sums out, which will be nice when I want to upgrade my car, for example. Not that I’m in a hurry to do this. I love my little Golf.

Once all of that was chosen, I then had to choose how I wanted that money to come to me. Annually? Quarterly? Monthly? Fortnightly? Weekly?

This for me was a no-brainer. I’ve been paid fortnightly for my whole career, so this is how I’m used to organising my finances. So fortnightly it is!

The ONLY thing that has made me miss work is when their online form wouldn’t accept my driver’s licence information, so I had to post them a certified photocopy. Instead of just grabbing a photocopy from work, I had to go to my local library and PAY for one. Outrageous!

In the last week of December, my first “pay” went into my account. I kept watch on my account all day and it raised a smile when, just like my teaching wage, my super landed in there between 3 PM and 3:30 PM.

Nothing like familiarity!

But how does this actually feel?

I’m pulling money from an account that I’ve spent my whole career building up! It almost feels irresponsible… except it’s actually warming the cockles of my heart.

I was reading the Simple Savings forum this morning when I saw a comment from V on one of the threads: “My super pension went into the bank today. Even after years of getting it I still feel a thrill when I see it.”

That’s how it felt for me when I saw the first one go in. Like dividend payments, it felt a bit like money for nothing. Everyone likes that feeling!

I divvied it up and sent some to my credit card and some to my online bank account, which has a spreadsheet attached so I can save up for various things. It’s divided up into columns for Emergency, Travel, Car. Rates, Pets (this is mainly in case Scout ever comes down with IVDD), and every now and then I’ll add an extra column for Wedding, or Tom30’s house etc.

I’d rather run my life this way with only 2 savings accounts, instead of having about 10 of them. Much easier to keep track of.

Then it was a 2 week wait for the next payment to come along. This one wasn’t nearly as exciting, because it was almost exactly the same amount as my yearly timeshare fee. All I had to do was transfer it to my credit card and then pay the bill.

But still, it’s nice to see a chunk of money turn up like clockwork with no effort from me and no fanfare. And to think this will go on for decades!

What I’m really looking forward to is doing my annual figures at the end of the year, seeing what effect, if any, my drawing a wage will have on my Super balance. I’ve heard from other retirees that their balances keep going up, even with the regular withdrawals, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll experience the same thing.

Imagine? It would be like the story of the goose who lays the golden eggs, except this is no fairy tale. I honestly thought I’d be more concerned about taking money OUT of this pot. I’m a saver: I absolutely love seeing my balances go up. But instead, I’m strangely at peace with it.

Maybe I’ve finally got my emotions around the concept that this is what all those years of patiently plugging away at building up Super were for.

One thing that I’ve done with my Super is that I’ve hedged my bets a little with regard to work. I’ve paid my VIT fees for this year, just in case I decide to work a few days, but if I worked, that would mean that I’d have to have a valid accumulation fund in place. I asked the consultant about that and she said that most people in my situation leave 6K (the minimum amount) in their Accumulation fund to keep it open, just in case they pick up a little work.

So that’s what I’ve done. When I’m totally, 100%, absolutely positively SURE that I’ll never darken the door of a classroom again, I’ll just close down that account and walk off into the sunset. It’s worth paying the tiny annual fee just for the peace of mind.

As I’m typing this, it’s the summer school holidays, so I can’t help but still feel in holiday mode. My payment popping into my account just feels like holiday pay. When term starts and it still keeps coming… I have the feeling that it’ll be pretty sweet.

Remember the photo at the start of this post? These are the apples that I picked a couple of days ago from the garden. Some of these trees are 6 years old and some are 3 years old.

It’s very much the same as Superannuation… you put the hard work in at the beginning and then later on you (hopefully) reap the benefits.

(The bananas are picked from Aldi, in case anyone was wondering.)

Dad joke of the day:

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?

Medieval fun with the students.

I’m sitting here at my desk in the staffroom on the students’ first day back after the summer holidays. Most of the staff are either in the year 8 meeting in the gym or they’re sitting with their year 9 form groups in the form rooms. Me? I was lucky enough not to get a form, so I have an extra 2 periods to prepare for the term ahead.

I’ve always wanted to teach history because, as anyone who has read any of my travel posts of the UK knows, I absolutely LOVE history. When I retired at the end of 2020, I thought that dream would never come true. Well, Fortunate Frogdancer tends to get what she wishes for… part of my teaching load is a year 8 and year 9 History.

The year 9 one is Australian history, with an emphasis on issues that are current today, sort of linking the two and seeing where they originated from. Year 8 History is going to be wonderful… Medieval. Oh yeah, babyyyy!

We’re going to have fun. Just look at the medieval pictures I’m using in this post!

The year 8s in English are doing creative writing this term, so again… totally my jam. I have 2 classes.

I’ve covered my desk with pictures of England and Ireland, so that when I get sad about my freedom being snatched away – which we all know is going to happen because I love the retired life so much – then I can dump my laptop and books on my desk, straighten up, gaze at where I’m going to be going in September ad say, “Oh yeah! THIS is why I’m doing this.”

I have to look after Future Frogdancer’s mental health. It’s only polite.

Seeing as this is a FI/RE blog, I’d better dive into what’s happening with money this year.

Last year when the stock market fell just as I was ready to harvest some profits, (dammit!) I was able to stave off tapping my cash bucket for a whole year by using a mixture of dividends and wages. I’m really pleased I did this, even though I dearly missed the freedom of a fully retired life. In effect, my cash bucket of roughly 3 years’ of expenses has now been stretched to 4.

This year though, I decided to tap it for the first time. I worked too many days last year and after all, that bucket of cash is there for a reason. I’ve pulled out a year’s expenses. and have topped up categories in my spreadsheet. My health insurance money for the year is full, as are my rates, insurances and my car rego/service.

I feel comfortable when I know that these big expenses are ready for the year.

When my dividends come in, I’ll be putting them to one side, probably to help pay for my Canada trip next year… unless of course another child decides to get married or buy a house. Plans change, after all. I’m fortunate that I have a career that enables me to get good money for casual work if I decide that I want some extra cash for something-or-other.

I’m putting every penny that I earn from this term’s work to pay for my 2023 trip. It’s astonishing what a difference it’s so far made in my attitude. Last year I was working to help the boys with wedding and house-buying stuff. Yes, it’s worthy but argh!

This term’s work is all about me. Windsor Castle is positioned directly above where my laptop screen is and I think it’ll be very helpful. Henry VIII is there. Waiting…

I’ve still avoided catching covid and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be teaching in a mask. In fact, the only time I remove my mask when I’m at school is to eat lunch. Strange that eating a meal is the most dangerous thing I do each day! We have air purifiers in most of the rooms and they’re always turned on when I walk into the room. I’m hoping that I can avoid covid, especially long covid. I’m meeting more people who have it and it sounds awful.

It’s nearly morning recess and I teach after that – year 8 History – so I’ll sign off and read over my lesson plan. This trip in September had better be worth it!!!

Dad joke of the day:

My Dad suggested I register for an organ donor card – he’s a man after my own heart.

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:

The challenge I set myself that I didn’t tell you about.

A wire-haired dachshund looking like an angel.

It’s coming up to the end of the year and I’m feeling confident that I’m going to finish a challenge that I didn’t tell you about.

Part of my financial strategy within retirement is to have a pool/bucket of money, around 3 years of expenses, that I’ve put in a term deposit to ride out a stock market crash. I rolled over that money at the end of December last year, just before – you guessed it – there was a downturn in the stock market.

I wasn’t concerned. With the piddling interest being paid on the term deposit, it didn’t worry me that I’d have to break into it to pull out some living expenses.

But then I had 3 people separately contact me towards the end of term 1, asking if I’d consider helping the school out with some CRT work because covid was making it extremely difficult to cover classes.

I owed the school big time. Securing an ongoing teaching job nearly 20 years ago absolutely saved our financial bacon. The school has been fantastic to my boys and me; I’d had 3 vaccinations by then; I could teach in a mask; and …

… maybe I could stretch the time before I had to tap into that term deposit???? WHAT a challenge!

I totally didn’t expect that I’d be working as many days as I have. So far, as of this week’s pay, I’ve brought home just over 25K in income from this CRT gig. What with dividends, my CRT wages and my tax return, I’ve more than covered this year’s expenses.

So, in effect, I’ve succeeded in stretching that term deposit into being able to last me 4 years instead of 3. I’m pretty happy with that.

When I come back from Antarctica, it’ll be time to think about how hard I want to tap that term deposit. I’m definitely not working as many days as I have this year – by the end of term 3, I was very unhappy. I was pining for my lost freedom.

However, I’m thinking that working a day a week next year might be ok. That’s around $300 take-home that I could put toward a holiday or another son’s wedding or something. It’s also true that once Ryan27 moves out, I’ll be living on my own. Working a day a week, where I’m forced to interact with people, might stop me from becoming weird.

Or at least, stop me from becoming weirder than I already am.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting in front of a deathly quiet Maths class. After lunch, I’ll be walking a group of year 8s to the local lawn bowls club for their sport double. It’s not a hard way to earn some money. The kids here are lovely and it’s nice to catch up with my work friends.

I’ve decided that I’ll pull the pin on work this year when I have 2 weeks to go before I go to Tullamarine and try to remember how to get on a flight. I definitely don’t want to catch covid and have to postpone this holiday again!

So, being flexible and taking on some casual teaching has worked pretty well for me, all things considered. The challenge of being able to stave off tapping the term deposit for a whole year was a stretch goal for me, but I DO like to win at a challenge!

But the emotional drain of seeing my glorious freedom ebbing away is something that I don’t want to repeat again next year. I feel that I’ve helped the school out in its hour of need, and having the freedom to heavily pick and choose how many days I work is something that I’ll be exploring next year.

I have to train myself to say ‘no’ if the chance to earn money is offered. Those many years of poverty are hard to break away from.

Dad joke of the day:

The Sunday blues.

Well, well, well.

Here’s an emotion I never thought I’d feel again.

When I retired in 2020 I put away all thoughts of going back to work as a regular gig. I had it in my head that maybe, if the stock market fell, I might do some casual teaching work, but aside from that, I was done with full-time work and all that goes with it.

Over the last couple of terms, I’ve done a lot of casual teaching days, which I fell into for a variety of good reasons.

Then, as you know, I picked up a 6-week contract to teach a full-time load for a friend who was taking Long Service Leave. That contract turned into 7 weeks.

So I’m now in the third week.

Yesterday after lunch, I started feeling down. I suddenly had no energy and all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and read.

I started sighing a lot and feeling vaguely aggrieved with my lot.

I forced myself up off the couch and ironed some work clothes for the week ahead – got to be prepared!! – and made some cheese and ham scrolls for Tom30 and my work lunches.


I took my water bottle from the dishwasher, filled it and put it out in the car. Took a couple of library books out there too, along with a coat. Fewer things to do tomorrow morning when I’m racing around!!


I fixed a problem with my quilt and started making dinner. Bolognese, because with only two of us at home we can have the same thing tomorrow night – to make it easy for me when I come home later than usual after going to see Mum and Dad after work.


It was about 5:50 when I opened the front door to take some recycling out. It had been raining earlier and the sky was a steely grey.

All except for the magnificent rainbow that stretched like a drawing along the length of my street in front of me. It was as if it had been designed to be viewed specifically from my front door.

Instantly, my spirits lifted.

I knew that come Monday morning, I’d enjoy being at school, teaching the kids and seeing some friends. Everyone is cheery, with only the occasional sulky adolescent having a bad day, and the time will slip by very pleasantly. Hell, there’s even a morning tea planned to celebrate the principal of this campus getting the job as principal of the whole school next year, though I’d be having yard duty then. I still might be able to grab a cupcake on the way out.

I knew that it wasn’t the job that’s the problem. It’s the lack of freedom.

Having the whole of 2021 off, even with the huge lockdowns that Melbourne had, was still the happiest year of my life. I had total control over how I spent each minute of every day. My kids are grown and I have no grandchildren, so the only beings that have any real pull on me for day-to-day needs are the little woofs. Obviously, I love them more than my kids- who wouldn’t? – so they’re no hardship to look after.

A whole year of total freedom. Think of that. I was never bored because as soon as I was doing an activity that began to pall, I’d simply stop doing it and move on to something else without giving it much thought. I knew that if the job wasn’t complete, I could always revisit it tomorrow. After all, I have a lifetime of tomorrows stretching in front of me.

Every morning, as my feet hit the floor, I’d decide what I felt like doing that day. Would it be a quilting day? A gardening day? A reading day? A bit of each? Would I take the dogs to the beach or for a walk to the river? Would I visit a friend or stay at home like a happy hermit?

It was lovely. It was also lovely to contemplate that I (touch wood) have DECADES of this freedom ahead of me. I assume that one day I’ll have grandkids that I might want to help look after, but until that happens I’ll still have YEARS of totally selfish freedom to get out of my system.

So it’s been interesting to observe how 35 weekdays blocked out of my calendar affected my Sunday afternoon mood yesterday. Keeping in mind, too, that this is with a job I enjoy and a school with truly well-behaved kids. How would I be feeling if I hated the job I agreed to do? I’m already thinking that Wednesday next week is the halfway mark – coincidentally a payday – and then I’ll be on the downhill slide to the school holidays. Not long to go!

Of course, as soon as the alarm went off this morning I was back in the swing of it. My weekdays are a “same old, same old” routine that leaves no time for morbid self-pity and introspection. It’s up and at ’em time! My morning is like a ticking time bomb until I’m out the door.

And each weekday at work brings its own little gifts. Half an hour ago I noticed that the yard duty I was supposed to have at recess has been given to a CRT, so I can now attend the celebratory morning tea. Yay!

So I guess what I’m saying is that getting the Sunday Blues was like having a nasty backwash from the past wash over me. I’d forgotten about it, but all of a sudden there it was. I’m also very well aware that I could have said no to this contract – this is something that I entered into voluntarily and for very good reasons. I’m not really regretting taking up the offer. It’s just that now I know that there’s a different way to live…

All I can do is press forward, knowing that in the grand scheme of things these next 5 weeks are just a blip and will slip by very quickly. I’ll look back on these weeks and I know without a doubt I’ll be glad I worked. This is the right thing to do right now.

This time constraint is only temporary. But it’ll be interesting to see if this happens every week, or if it was just a one-time thing. Hopefully the latter. I can’t rely on a rainbow to lift my mood every Sunday evening.

That’d be unreasonable.

Dad joke of the day:

Guess who I bumped into on the way to the opticians?


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”?

Having an Emergency Fund is a waste of money – until it isn’t.

I first learned the value of having what I then called a ‘Buffer Zone’ back in the days when I was newly separated, with 4 small boys under 6. When we split, we had a mortgage, 2 old cars and $120 in the bank. I withdrew the money and gave him half, so we each had $60. I took the people mover and he took the van he needed for work. We agreed that the boys and I would live in the house and in lieu of child support, he’d pay the mortgage.

(Anyone who’s ever been in this situation, or knows people who have, knows what’s coming next. It’s the classic move of the non-custodial who wants to punish their ex.)

Establishing a new life with $60 and 4 kids isn’t as much fun as you might think. We were able to get the Sole Parent’s Pension, as it was called then, so basic bills were covered. But I had a huge urge to get some security for us and so I decided to scrape together one thousand dollars as a ‘Buffer Zone’ for us.

It took 4 or 5 months but I did it. I scrimped and scraped, I barely ate any meat during this period – though I remember cutting off the end of a sausage that the boys were having as part of their spaghetti and ‘meatballs’ meal and devouring it. Any way that I could save money, or at the very least wring every cent’s worth of value from each dollar, I did.

And yes – one day I checked the bank account and there was $1,000 sitting there.

I breathed a sigh of relief. We had our Buffer Zone. Job done!

But something was niggling me. A few days later, I decided to call the bank and check on the balance of our mortgage.

I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. The person on the other end of the line told me that the mortgage hadn’t been paid for a couple of months and that the account was $963 in arrears.

“After another month, we would’ve called to discuss it.” But of course, I wouldn’t have been the one they would’ve called. This was 25 years ago – the male name on the mortgage would’ve received the call. I was lucky that I decided to check.

But of course, I didn’t feel lucky at the time. As I threw the younger kids into the massive double stroller I had and began to walk up the street towards the bank with the older two boys skipping along beside me, I was furious. Actually, I felt incandescent with rage.

But I also felt thankful that I had the money behind me to fix it. A simple transfer from my Buffer Zone account to the mortgage and the situation was safe.

And that’s what a Buffer Zone/Emergency Account is for.

To save your bacon in the event of an unexpected expense.

Cute as a button dachshund pup.
Scout’s a big fam of the Emergency Fund – with good reason.

Naturally, I immediately began work on building that Buffer Zone back up. It was even harder this time because I was now paying the mortgage on top of everything else. But like everything else on this FI/RE trip, if you keep at it step by step, you eventually get there.

Would I ever be without an Emergency Fund again? Hell, no! That thing not only kept a roof over our heads when we were at our most vulnerable, but every now and then over the years it’s smoothed the ride when surprising things happened.

What about the day I loaded the boys into the Tarago and swung the roller door closed, only to have it keep on going and the bottom half swung off the car? Ok, I admit that it was stressful trying to secure the door well enough so we could drive home safely, but the next day, thanks to the emergency fund, I was able to get it fixed.

(When it happened, the boys stared at me in shock as the door was swinging wildly from one hinge. I remember thinking, “I can either laugh or cry.” With those little boys looking at me, all I could do was start laughing. The situation was so awful as to be hilarious. )

The time that Scout swallowed a seed pod and almost died was another one. Her surgery cost $3,200. I was telling that to a friend at work and she gasped and said, “I’d never be able to afford that. The vet and I would have been having a very different discussion.” Fortunately, I have a separate emergency fund for the dogs, so money wasn’t an issue. Three years later, we still have our little girl who makes us laugh every single day.

A couple of years ago I leapt blithely into my morning shower – only to leap straight back out, screaming. The hot water system had died. Three days later we had a continuous gas hot water system installed – luxury! I tell you – I loved my emergency fund when I took my first hot shower.

These are just a smattering of the times that problems that can be fixed with money were taken care of with minimal stress and no debt.

New fridge.

Over time, as I became more financially secure and started work again, the size of my emergency fund grew. It started out at $1,000, then grew to $5,000 and then up to $15,000, before settling down at my current level of $10,000.

My gauge of how much cash for an emergency I need to have behind me is pretty much the ‘can I sleep at night?’ test. With 10K, I feel that it pretty much covers most things that could go wrong with my house and car. As I mentioned before, I have a separate account for the dogs that I set up when I got Scout and then found out about the 25% risk dachshunds have of getting IVDD. I’m devoutly hoping I never have to touch that money but it’s there if she needs it.

The Emergency Fund is a funny beast. In my experience, I can go for YEARS without tapping into it, to the point where it almost feels like a waste having all that money just sitting there earning next to no interest.

Then WHAM! Something happens. Or two things happen. They seem to come in waves.

Consider the last 2 weeks. My fridge dies. After weighing the options, I decide to buy a new one. $1,900 later, the shiny new fridge is installed in my kitchen. No credit card debt, no drama. Excellent!

A week later we experience the first cold snap of the year, so we try to switch on our gas ducted heating. Nothing. Turns out that it was a 20-year-old model that has valiantly served its time but was now up for renewal. No problem. $3,000 later, a new model was installed on the same day.

Annoying? Yes. But stressful? No.

In the space of 2 weeks, I had 5K of unexpected expenses. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a little more than simple walking around money. Over the next little while, I’ll steadily pump money back into the emergency fund until it’s at the ‘can I sleep at night?’ level again – ready for next time.

Because we know that there’ll always be a next time.

The brilliant thing is that there are no set rules.

YOU decide how much money you want to have in there – the ‘can I sleep at night?’ rule is totally individual. Some people, particularly those with insecure or erratic jobs, like to keep 3 – 6 months of expenses in there. Some like to have a year. Personally, because the job I had was incredibly secure, I was happy with the 10K – 15K level.

YOU decide where to leave it – my personal choice is to put it in an online bank account away from my everyday bank, so it’s not always in my face. The Emergency Fund is intended to lurk in the background like a benevolent stalker until it’s needed, not to be a constant temptation to spend the money on fun stuff.

The only requirement is self-discipline. First to build up the thing in the first place; then to not tap into it unless it’s a genuine surprise expense that’s popped up. But as we all know, fiscal discipline and delayed gratification make you stronger.

The Emergency Fund is like having a friend who is always ready to have your back. And who doesn’t like that feeling?

The rewards of Delayed Gratification.

Our first pizza in the new oven.

It’s funny how my perception of worthwhile purchases has changed since I reached financial independence, (FI). The latest thing I’ve bought – the pizza oven – is a perfect example of this.

I’ve always made pizzas for my family. Firstly, I married an Italian, so I learned to make pizza, pasta and lasagne very quickly after I moved in. I was brought up in a Skip family in the 60’s and 70’s, and Mum’s repertoire was pretty much meat and 3 veg with tinned fruit for dessert. The Italian cuisine was definitely a step up!

Then, after the divorce, when the boys and I were living off the Sole Parent’s pension of around 18K per year and, (for the first few years when I wasn’t teaching), $20/month child support, pizza, pasta, pancakes and mince were my best friends. You can feed an army with those items and, with 4 boys, I practically was.

Back then, the only pizza ovens that were around were in pizza shops. But if domestic pizza ovens were a thing in the 1990’s/2000’s, there would have been NO WAY I would’ve even considered buying one.

So what if the taste of pizza made in a proper pizza oven was superior? I was baking perfectly adequate pizzas in my regular oven, thank you very much.

So it only takes a minute to cook a pizza, as opposed to around 12 – 15 minutes in a regular oven? That sounds good, but really… it’s dinner time. We’re already in the kitchen where we need to be – a few minutes saved isn’t that big a deal.

And of course – the clincher:

They cost HOW MUCH??? Are you KIDDING me? Who in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars to make a pizza taste better and save a few minutes? Not this little black duck! I have far better things to do with my money.

And Past Frogdancer would have been correct. She DID have better things to do with her money, such as pay off the house, send the boys through school, buy braces and glasses for whoever needed them etc etc. I called myself a ‘little black duck’ a few sentences back and that’s a pretty apt description for how life was back then. My little webbed feet were paddling furiously under the surface to make sure that the boys and I stayed afloat.

But now that I’ve reached FI?

It seems that the rules have changed a bit.

The second pizza. We need to practice launching them into the oven a little more!

When I first saw that Thermomix was selling pizza ovens, the first thing I thought of was how fantastic entertaining would be with one of these working with me. I realised this was something that could definitely make a positive difference in my life. Safe to say, I was interested in finding out more.

But hey, let’s not get crazy here! The next thing I did was check out the price. I haven’t changed that much! There’s no point fantasising about owning something if it’s impossible to pay for.

Fortunately, the price was reasonable.

It’s interesting though. Unlike buying a thermomix, I won’t be using this pizza oven nearly as much. There’ll be weeks that go by when it won’t be touched. Granted, it’s not as pricey as a thermomix, but even so. The cost per use won’t be nearly as good.

But for the first time, that wasn’t the important part. The major tipping point for me was the thought of seeing my boys, my wider family and my friends gathering together and having fun, enjoying good food – because who doesn’t like pizza? – and it being something that everyone could look forward to doing.

In other words, the emotional draw of this product trumped (ugh – hate that word… I wonder why) the financial considerations.

This is the side of practising delayed gratification that we don’t often hear of. Everyone talks about front-loading the sacrifices to get to a point where you can loosen the reins and start indulging yourself. Not many people talk about what it’s like once they reach the point of being able to relax and reap the rewards earned by being disciplined with expenditure for so long.

Well, I’m at that point. I don’t want to run crazy, buying every shiny new bauble in sight, but it’s nice to have other things be the deciding consideration, rather than simply “How much does it cost?”

The decades of frugal living have left their mark, but in ways that I really like. I live a life filled with simple pleasures that don’t cost a lot, if anything. I love to go travelling – fingers crossed Antarctica can still go ahead this year – but I’m also extremely happy puddling around at home.

I spent years and years living on the knife’s edge of poverty when the boys were small, determined not to fall off. My theme song was Bon Jovi’s “We’re Halfway There”, except I changed the line to “It DOES make a difference if we make it or not.” I went without many things and made probably thousands of little sacrifices that, while I obviously noticed them at the time, have mostly faded into obscurity over the years.

All of those little daily frugal habits have brought me here. I hope that there’s someone reading this… maybe someone who feels like they’re stuck in the boring middle ground of FI when it seems like you’ve optimised every expense and now you’re just plodding through… someone who can catch a glimpse that it’ll all be worth it.

After all, the time will pass, regardless of whether you’re using the tool of delayed gratification or not. But it can make a huge difference as to where you’ll be when you’re older.

It’s 11:34 AM on a Tuesday. I’m about to get up and plant some new flowers into some hanging baskets, before making some bread rolls for lunches and then finishing off a quilt for my cousin. Tom30 is working from home and I can hear him singing in his room. Luckily, he has a beautiful voice! As I’m typing this I’m throwing a ball for Polly and Sout to chase, while Jeffrey is snoring beside me.

In an alternate universe, 11:34 AM on a weekday would mean that I’d be either in a classroom teaching 28 kids, or at my desk in the staffroom marking papers or preparing lessons. Not a bad life, granted, but I know which one I’m very happy to be living!

(In the comments last week, Maureen asked me for a review of the Ovana. Here’s the link, in case she missed it.)

Dad joke of the day:

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