Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Enjoying life right now. (Page 2 of 12)

When you’re happily retired and you get offered a job…

Yesterday in my Wednesday W’s post I talked about what was front of mind – should I take a tutoring job at a school? It was a dilemma that took me a little over 2 days to decide what to do, but the questions it brought up, both from myself and from others, were fascinating.

First up; a bit of background.

On Monday I received a message on FB from a friend who used to work at my school, but has since moved on. Her question: ‘I know you’ve retired, but would you be interested in doing some tutoring?”

Such a simple question, but gee it brought up some stuff.

The simple answer would be, “No thanks. I hate tutoring!”

But…

It brought up a lot of emotional stuff.

Anyone who’s read this blog for more than 5 minutes would know that since I retired at the end of 2020, I’ve absolutely loved my life. Don’t get me wrong – I loved being in the classroom with those very funny teenagers, but the increasing amount of admin, micromanagement and more and more meetings were sucking the fun out of teaching. So when covid came, I evaluated my situation, realised I could retire, (thanks to The Mayor for nudging me!), and so I walked away.

At the time, I fully expected that I’d be asked back to do CRT (Emergency teaching), but then lockdown after lockdown happened so there was no CRT work. When schools went back to face-to-face teaching at the end of the year, I have a feeling that the person responsible for hiring CRT’s gave the work to the people who were relying on that income and who’d had such a bad year. Rightfully so. I would’ve done the same.

The result was that I had a whole year away from school. Sure, I visited my friends a couple of times, but that was it. For the rest of the time, I was here, basking in the luxury of freedom over my time, discovering this thing called “relaxation” and enjoying the sweet, sweet sound of silence.

(As I’m typing this, it’s nearly lunchtime. All I can hear is birdsong, a couple of cars going by and Jeffrey snoring on the couch beside me. Bliss. Being around 2,500 kids every weekday is a very different level of background noise.)

So when I got the message, it came completely out of the blue. My instinctive reaction was to shake my head, race away from Facebook and let it sit for a couple of hours. I had all these conflicting things swirling around in my brain.

Many of you may not know that, back when I was 34 and had 4 boys under 5, I left my husband. I had $60 cash. We shared a 90K mortgage and 2 very old, crappy cars. That was it.

In the property settlement, I managed to hang onto the house, but I had to pay my ex 18K to pay him out, and also promise to forgo spousal support. That would’ve been all ok if he’d been paying child support at the time, but for the next few years it was all very erratic. For most of the time, until I began teaching again, I was getting $20/month from him to ‘support’ our 4 boys.

This obviously had the effect of making securing an income very important. It continued to be important as I tried different ways to bring money in. I cleaned houses, and opened an Etsy shop and tried to sell knitted baby hats, doll quilts and other bits and pieces. (I shut it down after a couple of years – people simply don’t want to pay what hand-made goods should cost. It was a waste of my time.) When I discovered the Thermomix and became a consultant for 4 years, I was finally able to move the needle. Paired with my teaching wage, the money I earned from my Thermomix business enabled me to pay the house off, as well as go on my dream holiday in the UK and Europe after my youngest son finished high school.

Even after I put domestic geoarbitrage into action and moved down here to The Best House in Melbourne and dropped the thermomix business, it was still engrained in me to keep my income up. More money = security. I wasn’t planning to retire at the end of 2020. Covid brought that decision forward.

All this is going to say – when an offer comes along to earn substantial money for easy work – it’s ground into my bones to leap at the chance. Even when I know I won’t enjoy doing it. Money = security.

I didn’t WANT to take the job. But I felt I SHOULD do it. Teacher guilt is a real thing.

I was genuinely torn.

I put my dilemma out to Twitter and received some excellent feedback.

Some women on the Simple Savings forum also had some good things to say. The consensus seemed to be (from women who are still in the workforce) that I should try it and see if I liked it. Nina, however, had this to say:

“Frogdancer, only you know what’s right for you. In my huge govvie organization we have all sorts of employees as you would imagine. One lady retired last year but came back as a casual temp and she loves it – easy money, not as much responsibility.

Another came back under similar circumstances and hated it. She did her 3 months as promised and vowed never to return. It was just too hard to be ‘sort of’ part of a team but still not really committed, and she felt like her head was geared towards working every day but just getting paid for 20 hours. To each their own. You could give it a try and then like Sandra gracefully walk away if it’s not for you.”

Also, a friend from work pointed out, this is an election year. The available money for schools to offer tutoring won’t be around next year. I heard back from my friend who was offering the job. The terms and conditions were really great and she was prepared to work around anything I’d want.

Dammit.

As the hours went by, I started asking myself why I was so reluctant? It came down to a few points:

  • I don’t enjoy tutoring. One-on-one teaching isn’t all that much fun for me. I like the cut and thrust of being in front of a class, with all of the banter and repartee that comes from funny teens and their quick wits.
  • Tutoring kids who are behind in literacy skills means that you have to administer (and then mark) all of these BORING tests. There’s so much admin and paperwork to plough through. Leaving all this behind me is a huge part of why I’m loving my life so much now.
  • I’ve had tutors sitting in my classes. The kids who the tutors are helping HATE having them there. It’s a huge sign to the other kids that they’re ‘dumb’ and falling behind. No red-blooded teenager wants that! So although I’d be there to help, I’d be pushing sh*t uphill for ages to get them to even listen.
  • I’d be in an ill-ventilated space with 28 kids and a teacher in the middle of a pandemic. Admittedly, the situation is better now than in 2020 because we’re all vaccinated, but even so. This is what I retired to avoid.

All of these reasons are a bit whiney and selfish. I know I’d do a good job and I’d be doing the right thing by helping the kids. But ugh…

Yesterday morning I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to do it. I waited until the afternoon, in case I had second thoughts, but by 2 PM I knew I’d stick to the decision. I rang my friend and let her know.

She was great about it and offered short-term tutoring, closer to exams, if I felt like it, which might be an option. But do you know what the absolute clincher was?

She was talking to me in a space where I could hear lots of kids around her. THE NOISE!!!!

omg.

It made me laugh. People who are surrounded by it every day have no idea how it chips away at you. The serenity of the soundtrack of my days here is so nourishing and peaceful.

Interestingly, it occurred to me this morning that I probably wouldn’t mind doing the occasional CRT day. I’d be in the classroom, yes, but with absolutely no admin work or diagnostic testing to mark. It would be fun to ‘earn’ things like the $600 pizza oven I just ordered, rather than pay for it out of my dividends.

Maybe I could look at dropping my resumé off to a school or two in the area???

Hmmmm. Maybe…

Dad joke of the day:

Past, Present and Future walk into a bar.

It was tense.

Little Adventures #10: Miss Marple’s Tearoom. January 2022.

Cute café.

I know I said in my last post that I’d be devoting my days to reading the latest Outlander novel, Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, but I knew that I was rapidly running out of month. I decided to wait until the kids went back to school on the last day of January and take myself off to Miss Marple’s Tearoom in Sassafrass.

If you’ve never been there, it’s worth clicking on the link and watching the video. It gives a really good feel for the place.

Quaint interior.

I know that the Little Adventures are meant to be places that I haven’t been to before, but Miss Marple’s almost qualifies. I’ve only been here once and that was when I was in my twenties.

I never forgot the scones, though.

Monster scones.

Look at the insane height of these things! I put the teaspoon in there for perspective. I remembered how filling they were, even from decades ago, so after I finished yoga this morning I didn’t eat breakfast. I thought I’d better treat this Devonshire tea as a brunch.

Devonshire tea. But with coffee.

I was starving by the time I sat down – at a table by the window; how delightful! – but I still couldn’t finish them.

So yummy though.

Page 469. Halfway there!

Even though I only needed one seat, I wasn’t there alone. I brought Claire and Jamie Fraser with me. I’m halfway through and I’m loving it.

But ohhh… I’m so very glad that I was born in an age that has discovered electricity. ‘Women’s work’ back then was hard work.

Red lillies in a vase.

The tearoom itself is full of pleasing little details, such as fresh flowers on every table.

Row of teapots above a doorway.

There’s also a row of fat teapots running around the room over the top of the doorways. The music playing was utterly in keeping with the whole vibe of the place, being old WWII songs.

The whole place was charming.

I thought of it as January’s Little Adventure because 2 people on Facebook went there. Both are completely unrelated – one was an ex-student and the other was an old school friend. It was a SIGN!

Outdoor art gallery.

After I’d finished my brunch and waddled out, I took a brief walk up the main drag, visiting a nursery and a couple of art galleries/gift shops. I would’ve liked to walk a little further afield, but I had in the back of my mind that this was Ryan27’s first day at his first job as a myotherapist, so I wanted to be back in time to wish him good luck and see him off.

It was a beautiful day for a drive into the Dandenongs. It was even more beautiful to think that if I hadn’t have found the FI/RE concept, instead of being out in the fresh air and sunshine, I’d be stuffed into a classroom with 28 kids, an air purifier and we’d all be wearing masks.

You know, I’m quite liking this retirement thing.

Dad joke of the day:

Joke.

Strictly speaking, not really a dad joke, but gee it made me laugh!

Great success is always the sum of many small decisions.

The quilt I made for my parents for Christmas is the perfect metaphor for the journey to financial independence. Quilting, like becoming financially free, has basic, simple steps but it certainly isn’t easy.

It’s not quick, either. But each seemingly insignificant decision that we make along the way contributes to the whole, beautiful product at the end.

The broad brush strokes of this quilt are the same as every other quilt in the world – it has a top of smaller pieces of fabric sewed together; a middle piece of warm batting and a backing fabric, sewing through all 3 layers to hold it all together and with a binding fabric sewn around the edges to stop it from fraying and falling apart. All quilts are the same basic construction.

Financial Independence s the same. The basic construction is that a financially independent person has gathered together the resources, usually over a time-period of decades, to support themselves financially without having to turn up to a job or business for money. Every financially independent person falls into this broad brush stroke category.

But as with the quilt, once you zoom in, the details can vary tremendously.

Take another look at this quilt.

This is a quilt made from scraps. There is no other quilt the same as this in the whole world. When I decided to make it, the broad brush stroke decisions were already decided. I knew how this quilt would be put together. But then some further decisions had to be made.

  • Each square would be made from scraps of one colour.
  • I would not buy any more fabric – I would make this quilt from what I already had. (It was in the middle of lockdowns, after all!)
  • Each square would measure 12.5″ square.
  • Most squares would be rainbow hues, but a couple would be brown, black-and-white and pink, just to tone it down a bit.
  • The quilt would be double-bed sized, as that’s the size bed my parents have.

Very similar to how we start along the path to financial independence. When I found out about FI/RE and decided to see if I could swing it, there were a few decisions to be made as to how I was going to go about it.

  • I had already paid off my house, so I decided I’d concentrate on putting together a share portfolio. House prices, even back then, were prohibitive for a sole parent on one teaching wage. Buying rentals was out of the question.
  • I decided to drop back a day a week at work and become a Thermomix Group Leader, running a team of consultants in my area. In other words, I chose to augment my wage by running a side hustle.
  • I was still supporting my four teenage boys. Reducing my expenses by installing solar panels, creating a food forest with fruit trees, veggie gardens and chooks, and cooking from scratch would cost more in the short-term, but over the long haul would make my journey towards financial independence much easier.

So far so good. But just deciding these things will not produce either a finished quilt or a financially secure retirement. You have to go smaller. Which specific actions are you going to take to get these things done?

Zoom in on the quilt. Every single piece of fabric here is the result of a deliberate decision and a deliberate action. See the black and white square? If you zoom in on that, you’ll see pieces of fabric that are less than a quarter of an inch wide. (Yes, I’m crazy.)

Some of the pieces in these squares are much larger and therefore contribute more towards the overall finished quilt. But the quilt would not be finished without every single one of these pieces, no matter how small. Every single decision and action in putting these fabrics together has mattered.

You could make the argument that the smallest pieces of fabric in the quilt almost matter the most, as they show that the commitment was there to finish the overall quilt top, by using every single piece of fabric at my disposal – no matter how small. I knew that even though a 1/4″ stripe of colour wouldn’t contribute a huge amount; IT STILL HELPED. After all, all I needed was enough pieces of coloured fabric to cover the top of a double bed. Keep at it long enough, keep putting fabric pieces together no matter how small and I knew I’d eventually get there.

It’s the same with financial independence.

All you need to do is cover 25X your annual expenses and you’re golden. The broadest brush stroke of all, I know! But how we all choose to get there is incredibly varied. Each one of us has a FI/RE journey that is exactly like this quilt – – a one of a kind. I can’t speak for anyone else, but like the strips and squares of colour in the quilt top, here are some of the things I chose to do each day to push myself along the path to FI/RE:

The most day-to-day decisions were all about frugality. I upped my income through the Thermomix side-hustle but I also deliberately chose to make the pool of money I had last a long time. I stretched my dollars any way I could. Some, like the quarter-inch strips, barely moved the needle. Others, like the big red and white polka-dot squares, covered much more ground. But they all contributed to the mindset of paying attention to the dollars:

  • When Tom13 started secondary school, he had to choose between learning French and German. The other boys didn’t have a choice. They all used the same textbooks – each book was used four times. Bargain!
  • Same with school uniforms. Everything was handed down from boy to boy and, wherever possible, bought at the school’s second-hand uniform shop. Boys are tough on their clothes, so why pay full price?
  • I bought grocery specials in bulk. If we ate it and it was on special, I bought up big. The aim was to eat as much as we could at half-price. Over time, that makes a difference.
  • If a cut of meat cost over $10/KG, I didn’t buy it. Even now, with only 2 of us in the house, I still look at the unit cost of everything.
  • The boys were all given swimming lessons. That’s a non-negotiable for Australian kids. But after that, each boy was only allowed to take ONE extra-curricular activity at a time. None of this running each kid around to forty-seven different gym classes, dance classes and sport clinics every week! At first they tried sport, but then over time, they all gravitated to music lessons. Instead of being ‘Jacks of all trades, masters of none’, they’re all very proficient in their instruments of choice. David27 has made a career out of it!
  • Once I found out about FI/RE, I read everything I could lay my hands on about investing. The share market was a big mystery to me and, being deathly afraid of numerals and maths, I had a lot of mental blocks to slowly overcome. It was hard, I won’t lie, but I knew that if I kept at it, blog post by blog post, book by book, things would slowly become clearer.
  • I kept food costs low by growing as much of our food as we could. I kept chooks, not just for the eggs but also for the free fertiliser they provided. If I grew it – we ate it.
  • I also grew the food that I needed to take to Thermomix demos as much as possible. After all, I was there to MAKE money; not spend it! My customers all had the herb and garlic dip instead of the hommus, (I grew the garlic, parsley and spring onions) , and they always had the rissotto (I grew the spinach.)
  • We were given free bread from a bakery every Tuesday night. We picked up everything they hadn’t sold that day for YEARS – all of their breads, pies, cakes and doughnuts. I stuffed my boys full of that free food – and I gave it away to friends and took the excess cakes and pastries into work every Wednesday. the chooks would also have a day of leftover bakery food each week. I made that free food COUNT!
  • I prioritised my goals. My first, most immediate goal was security for myself and the boys. Leaving a marriage with only $60 cash and 4 boys under 5 will do that to you! My over-arching goal was financial freedom, but I also had a life-long dream of going to England and Europe. In the end, I slotted that trip in between paying off the house and retirement. It cost around 30K and I thought it’d significantly delay my retirement… but I have never regretted going on that trip. It was truly a dream come true. And I never dropped my gaze from the FI/RE goal.
  • I took advantage when opportunity knocked. Obvously, making the decision to geoarbitrage and sell my original house was a HUGE clincher for my early(ish) retirement, but I also did smaller things, such as forming a close friendship with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder who bred my first bitch. For two decades, we had dogs from her kennels living with us. They were either older dogs who were past their breeding and showing days, or they were bitches I got for free on breeding terms. Poppy is the last of the line for this- I got her for free on condition Jenny could breed from her. (She ended up having only one litter. ) It was a bit of a shock to the system to have to pay for Scout!!

Every day there were tiny little decisions that on the face of it meant absolutely nothing and were noticed by no-one but me, yet collectively those tiny decisions swept me along the path to being financially free.

Many of you are in the boring middle part of the FI/RE journey. You’ve made all of the big and middle-tier decisions and put them into gear. It’s easy to lose heart and think that it’s all just too slow. But remember, just like piecing together a quilt, all of the little decisions and actions continuously help move the needle – and I’m here to say that a life without having to turn up to a job every weekday is a mighty fine life indeed.

Keep your eyes on what YOUR finished product will look like! Decide what YOUR little decisions and actions will be and then keep on doing them. Future You will thank you.

Dad joke of the day:

Frugal Friday: Off to the fruit shop!

Last week on the Frogblog I talked about stewing and freezing blocks of plums to use in my breakfast for the rest of the year. It makes sense to buy up big while the fruit is in season and preserve it to last through the rest of the year. Today – it’s apricot time!

As soon as I press ‘publish’, I’ll be jumping in the car and hunting down a box of apricots.

I already grow my own rhubarb – a $7 baby plant for Aldi 2 years ago has been an excellent investment! – so in a little while I’ll be buying a box of apples to make cubes of apple and rhubarb. My breakfasts will be healthy, full of variety and wonderfully easy. Oats, water, 3 cubes of fruit and into the microwave for 2.5 minutes. Couldn’t be simpler!

A couple of days ago I went to Costco while Ryan27 was at a job interview. (Spoiler: he got the job as a myotherapist.) While I was there I saw bags of garlic, so I grabbed a couple. Probably tomorrow, I’ll pop a podcast on the iPad and spend a tedious couple of hours peeling each clove. Then, I’ll freeze them.

I saw a friend of mine pull out ready-to-use cloves of garlic from her freezer and it Changed. My. Life. Sometimes the most obvious hacks are the most brilliant. I love to use fresh garlic but it’s a pain when it starts to sprout. This way – there’s no waste and I always have it on hand.

Along with fresh ginger. I just buy a pack from Costco every 6 months or so, slice it into coins and freeze. Works brilliantly.

Preparing the garlic this way is a perfect representation of delayed gratification and long-term thinking over short-term. Peeling the garlic is a nasty job. It’s boring and smelly and I’d rather be doing almost anything else. But the short-term pain is by FAR outweighed by the long-term pleasure of always having such a staple ingredient on hand whenever I want it. No rushed trips to the supermarket to get some more garlic for this little black duck!

Summer is the time when crops ripen and cooks all over the world start to frantically preserve the abundance for the leaner times. Usually by this time, I’m being overrun by tomatoes, but for the second year in a row, it looks like tomatoes are going to be a failure. Damn this El Ninâ weather pattern!

So, if I can’t save money on growing my own tomatoes, I’ll make use of whatever I can to fill the space in the freezers. It’s really a no-brainer. I save money, I save time and it gives me peace of mind. Why wouldn’t I do it?

Dad joke of the day:

Welcome to the plastic surgery addiction group. I see a lot of new faces here.

I read 128 books last year. Want some good ones?

Ahhh, reading. What a mighty fine way to spend time. Even people who say they “don’t like reading” can whip through a book lickety-split if it grabs them.

Up until now, school holidays have really been the only times I was able to read new books. Once a storyline grabs me, I’m a 200-page-a-day girl, which means that during term time, I’d usually re-read books, so that I could actually get things done like raising my kids and marking essays.

But now???? Oooo, babybaby.

I’ve had a wonderful first year of retirement, being able to gallop wild and free through any book that took my fancy. I’ve read some crackers – as well as some dogs.

Here are some of the cracking good reads, in no particular order.

  1. The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman.

This was one of the best books of 2021 for me. It’s so deliciously funny, with that gentle humour the British do so well, and the premise of the plot is wonderfully original. I really don’t want to go into the plot too much. It was given to me by Tom29 as a Christmas present and I went in cold – and within 4 pages knew that this was going to be a good read. I don’t want to be a dirty rotten spoiler for anyone else! When the follow-up to this one came out towards the end of the year, I was so happy to pick up The Man Who Died Twice and join my old friends in their little corner of the world again.

2. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng.

I’ve only read one of Ng’s books before, so in my tired, “it’s the summer holidays and I’m napping all the time” state of mind, I saw her name and thought I might enjoy this. Right from the start, as a house burns and a teenager watches, it grabbed me. The characters are fully fleshed out, the situations were engrossing and it wasn’t predictable at all. Beautifully written.

3. The Queen’s Gambit – Walter Tevis.

I’d heard about the series on Netflix, but before I started watching it Christmas rolled around and Tom29 gave me a copy of the novel. Reading this novel has started me on a Walter Tevis love affair – it’s so wonderfully written. This is the sort of book that I found myself putting down after each chapter and walking away, just wanting the beauty of the language to sit with me for a while.

I know how to play a basic game of chess – my grandfather taught me when I was a child – but my limited understanding of the game didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel. After I finished reading, then I watched the series and was pleased to see that they did a good job. All too often that’s not the case!

4. Wife After Wife – Olivia Hayfield.

Now, this one was a novel I was VERY excited to read. I’m a huge Tudor England person, as my friend Scott found when he took me to Hampton Court Palace. In fact, the photo at the top of this blog is of the roofline, taken as we arrived there. Still a pinnacle day of my life.

The premise of this novel is that the story of Henry VIII and his 6 unfortunate wives is now set in the present day. Instead of being a monarch, Henry is now a media mogul, as they are the people with all of the power nowadays. So of course, some things are different, while some things stay the same. The wife I was most curious about being brought into the present-day was Anne of Cleves.

How can two people get married in this day and age on the basis of an all-too-flattering painting, then get divorced because he couldn’t stand the sight of her when he finally clapped eyes on her in real life? Technology/photography has moved on just a tad, after all. The solution Hayfield came up with was really clever, as was the whole novel. I loved seeing how she explored how these people and their marriages would play out in today’s world.

Divorced, beheaded, she died; divorced, beheaded, survived…

Also, yes. The beheadings. It’s not the typical way to rid yourself of a wife in the modern age. How would it be resolved???

She has written a sequel based on Mary I and Elizabeth I, as they fight to take control, not of the throne of England, but of their father’s media empire. Sister to Sister is equally good. I especially loved the Christopher Marlowe character.

5. Find You First – Linwood Barclay.

Stephen King mentioned on Twitter that this book was excellent, so I grabbed it from the library.
Started it at 9 AM and was done by dinner.
Couldn’t put it down! Lots of twists along the way.

6. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens.

I’d heard the title of this book for ages, but knew absolutely nothing about it. Silly me thought that crawdads must be birds, right? Anyway, you know a book is good when you’re heading back to the library to return it, book in hand, little woofs walking with you, and a total stranger accosts you on the street to say, “Excuse me, I just finished that book. Isn’t it incredible????”

“YES!!!!!!” I replied.

We had a lovely chat, dissecting it all, and then we went our separate ways. Even in the midst of a pandemic, reading brings people together. This is set in a part of the world that is very unfamiliar to me, but the writing brings it all alive.

7. Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell.

My Goodreads note on this novel is “Made me cry at the end” and even though I don’t remember doing that, I have no difficulty believing it because the ending has certainly stayed with me.

The official blurb is:

“Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley Street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.”

Oh, how I enjoyed reading this book! So much has been written about Shakespeare, yet his private life, particularly the story of his marriage, is shrouded in mystery. It was lovely to read a book where he was only on the edges and the focus was firmly on other people, particularly his wife. In this novel she’s called Agnes instead of Anne, as apparently, her father called her Agnes in his will.

When I was in the UK in 2015, Scott and I did the whole Shakespeare Stratford-on-Avon tourist spin in an afternoon. This was the trip where we were walking by the river and I intelligently asked, “What’s this river called?”

Not my best moment.

Going to Anne Hathaway’s house was an absolute treat. It was absolutely fascinating and the garden was amazing. When the novel is set in the Shakespeare family home in the middle of town … I’ VE BEEN THERE!!! I could picture it all.

Another thing that has stayed with me is Agnes’ description of why she married young Will Shakespeare. It’s haunting. (In a wonderful way.)

Well, I’ve been here for an hour and the little woofs are getting hungry, so I’ll sign off for now. I’ll continue with this list another day, but I hope I’ve given people some Thumping Good Reads to track down. I’ve given the links to Amazon Australia, which has both paperback and Kindle options.

I have the free Kindle app on my iPad and it downloads books in a couple of seconds. Love it.

Dad joke of the day:

Have you seen the clown that hides from ugly people?

Frugal Friday: Prepare to celebrate!

Helloooo!

I’ve had a blog-break while I was waiting for my blog to migrate to another host. Back in April when I had a blog meet-up in Adelaide, I asked who people were getting to host their blogs, because Siteground was costing me a FORTUNE. The consensus was that Panthur, an Australian company, was great and far cheaper.

I’ve switched and it’s costing me a third of the price I was paying before.

omg. bargain.

Now I have more money to spend on things that I value – like champagne. (More on that later.) Like travel. Like Operation Beautify.

Last year on my Goodreads page I decided to try and read 70 books. I may have overshot slightly… I ended up reading 128 books instead. Oops.

I read some terrific books this year. I have a couple of friends on Facebook who used to be bloggers, back in the Golden Age of craft blogs, and they’re avid readers. I’ve been following their recommendations. I’m also following a few authors on Twitter. They get advance copies of people’s books, so when they tweet about something that sounds interesting, I’ve tracked it down.

Would you be interested in a post giving a recap of the best books? It’s be a shame if I didn’t use the Power of Time to Read for goodness, instead of evil. (That’s a ‘Get Smart’ quote, just slightly changed.)

Anyway, shoot me a comment and let me know. 🙂

But why the meme at the top of this post?

To kick the new year off, I’m sharing one of the best pieces of advice I ever received.

Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge. You never know when something will happen that you’ll want to celebrate.

It’s a tiny piece of joy, just waiting to happen. I always have a bottla bubbly ready and waiting. Sometimes it sits there for months, but that’s ok. As long as it’s unopened, it’s not going to go off.

But when someone arrives with good news or success to share, that bubbly GOES OFF!!!!

Then, in the next day or so, I quietly go to replenish the supply. It’s weirdly satisfying to be prepared to be spontaneous.

But who doesn’t want to be ready to be joyful?

Dad joke of the day:

What do Italian children like to play at parties?

Pasta parcel.

One year of early(ish) retirement.

As of midday today, I’ve been retired for fully twelve months.

I thought I might write about what it’s been like so far.

Hmmm… where to start?

It’s safe to say that the thing I was most worried about going into retirement hasn’t come to pass. At work, especially in classes, I was extroverted and cracked jokes and generally soaked up all of the human interaction. At home? I’m an antisocial hermit. I was concerned that I’d start to miss expressing my extroverted self after a while and that maybe I’d begin to get bored with my own company. I didn’t THINK I would, but that’s why they call things in life ‘surprises’.

In fact, the opposite has happened. I haven’t missed work at all. Which in itself was a bit of a surprise, because I loved being in the classroom, but it is what it is.

Every morning I’m glad that I don’t wake to an alarm clock. Jeffrey licking himself is almost as bad, but he tends to wait for a more civilised hour to start. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy a slow pace to the start of each morning. Get up, brew a coffee in the Aeropress, let the dogs out, then we all end up on the couch. I sip my coffee with the laptop on my lap, the dogs go back to sleep and it’s calm and peaceful. After a while we all have breakfast, (wild excitement from Poppy), and then the day will start to take shape.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most is the different way my days are organised now. Instead of having structure thrust upon me by the demands of the school’s timetable and the bells, I now have total control over how my hours are spent. I’m in a wonderful space in my life where my kids are grown and I don’t have grandchildren yet, so there is no time needed to set aside to run around after miniature people. That’s hugely freeing. I can do whatever I want.

I plan to enjoy this ‘selfish’ stage while it lasts. Many people retire when grandchildren are on their way so they can help with childcare, but my boys are very ugly so there are no children on the horizon as yet.

This is the time for me! Not many people get a chance to live for themselves, so I’m not going to waste it.

Reading meme

The days tend to be dominated by one activity. If I’m making a quilt, then that’s it for the whole afternoon. If I start a book; then I READ THE BOOK. I’m on my 126th book for 2021 and I’ve discovered some cracking reads. If I’m gardening, then I spent HOURS in the garden. It’s a good thing because I can spread myself around different activities and I don’t get bored.

Doesn’t really matter what it is I’m doing, I’m as happy as a clam because I’m undertaking what I’m in the zone for that day. This is why hosting Christmas this year is slightly annoying. I have a quilt for David28 that I want to get finished, but there’s cleaning and organising to do. So far, I haven’t really been in the zone for any of that, but this week that’ll have to change. My life is so hard…

The real luxury is when I strike a day that I don’t really feel like doing much of anything at all. My early retirement was full of these days. After a couple of months I texted a friend who’d retired a year before me and asked, “When does the need for having a nap every day stop???”

She replied, “Why does it have to?”

Yes, the first few months of retirement coincided with summer, so it was easy to just relax and let my body dictate what it needed. What it needed was lots of reading and lots of sleeeep. One good thing about this was that it really turno-charged my Earn Back My Rates By Reading challenge! You can check how I’m going by looking at the sidebar. By August I’d reached the target for 2021, so, not wanting to let the grass grow under my feet, I started on 2022. I made it harder by adding in the dog rates as well.

After a while the need to be almost constantly horizontal receded and I started doing more things. I whisked myself away on a trip along the Great Ocean Road over to Adelaide in between lockdowns, where I met up with Jenna’s family, an old school friend I hadn’t seen in 40 years and a blogreader in Warrnambool. Hi Loretta!!

If covid hadn’t lingered I’d be in Antarctica right now dancing with penguins, but I was lucky enough to be able to get it postponed to December next year (at this year’s prices, baby!) I’m planning to see Easter Island on the same trip, seeing as I’ll be in the neighborhood. Until then, I’ll be staying close to home, with only a couple of short trips – I was about to say “planned” but I haven’t planned a thing. But I’m sure something’ll pop up.

I bought quite a few permanent plants and fixtures for the garden, seeing as I was stuck at home during lockdowns, so I’m hoping that costs here will start to go down now that most spots are filled. Columnar apples don’t come cheap! I spent a fortune at Spotlight on expensive things like quilt batting at 40% off ( I bought in bulk) so I should be able to entertain myself nicely next year pretty cheaply. I want to put most of my money into my trip. If apple trees are expensive – penguins are worse!

Though having said that, I’ve put in an enquiry for an artist to paint a mural on the back of the house. He does incredible work and it would look AMAZING. Anyway, we’ll see what happens with that. It’s only money, right?

The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I used to be in a constant state of awareness that things Had To Get Done whenever I had a spare minute. Sometimes I’d ignore it, but in general, I had a list in my head and I was always conscious that time shouldn’t be wasted.

Now? The list is still there, but my version of a productive day has loosened. It used to be that when I crossed multiples off my list – I felt productive. Now it’s enough when only one or two get done. The amount of extra time you have at your disposal when work isn’t sucking up most of the week is incredible. So it’s no longer a logistical nightmare if I don’t tick 47 items from my list in a weekend. If I don’t get to a few tasks; there’s always tomorrow.

Something inside me that I didn’t realise was tightly wound has eased up.

At the moment I still have one adult son living with me, though I fully expect this to change over the next year or so. Then, for the first time n my life, I’ll be living alone. (Unless you count the Little Woofs, that is.) Ryan26 and I give each other our space, both being introverts. I’ve discovered that, for the moment at least, I have enough social contact by having a phone conversation every day with someone, as well as interacting with people online. Usually, at around 5 PM, I’ll finish off whatever I’m doing and then I’ll pour a drink and pick up the phone.

Maybe when Ryan26 moves out I’ll find that this isn’t enough, but for the moment I’m happy. It’ll be easy enough to look around and find places where I can meet like-minded people.

Managing my money without the constant top-up of a wage coming in has been an adjustment. It hasn’t been a year of ‘normal’ spending, as I used my long service leave to renovate my ensuite and the other bathroom at the beginning of the year. The share market has been kind this year, so a mixture of harvesting dividends and using a touch of savings has been the way I decided to go. Every 6 months I plan to balance up everything and pull out what I’ll need for the following 6 months, with a view to harvesting divvies if the market is going well, or using savings if it’s dropped like a stone. I have 2 years before I can access superannuation without paying tax, so I’m happy to let that burble away in the background.

Now to address the question that gets asked most often when I go and visit my friends at work – Do I get bored?

Are you kidding me? Why would I get bored when I can do whatever I want and have my time totally free to indulge myself? There was a time a few weeks ago when I put my back out REALLY badly – Jeff was limping so I was getting him out of the car at the vet’s when I twisted something. Even with having a remedial masseuse on the premises, it took over a week for it to heal. I NEARLY got bored one day… but then I realised I could walk around and read a book standing up, so all was fine. Phew!

My days have a basic rhythm to them. Mornings are chill until around 9 or 10 AM. I read, write or just scroll through social media. Then I get on with the day. I do whatever I’m in the zone that ay to do. I never have the tv on during the day… but most nights I’m bingeing a series on Netflix, Stan or AppleTV. Most days the little woofs have a walk; I’ll chat with people on the phone before dinner and really, that’s it.

It may sound dull when I write it like that, but when every day is spent doing something that I’ve CHOSEN to do for that day, then it’s the opposite of boring. Now that we’re out of lockdowns and life is getting back to normal, I’ll be out and about more. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to the theatre 5 times, so that’s not a bad start.

The foundations that I laid over the last few years are starting to bear fruit. Literally, if you count planting all those fruit trees! My veggie garden is doing really well, while the front yard is looking far prettier with the flowers and hanging baskets I’ve planted. The major renovations that I wanted to do to the house have all been done (touch wood), while now there’s pretty much only painting to be done. I still haven’t painted my ensuite – I know that once I do I’ll have to go through the whole house room by room to paint and I’m not ready to do that yet!

My trip to Antarctica is the next international holiday I have planned. My overall plan was to have one major overseas trip each year. I’m thinking 2023 will more than likely be the UK again, but who knows? I wasn’t planning on visiting North Korea, but when the opportunity arises who in their right mind would say no? So I’ll be keeping my options open.

The biggest surprise of this whole year was just how little I missed work. I really thought I’d have pangs of missing it, but not a jot. I’ve been lucky to have seen the school musical and I was able to use up a spare ticket on a Drama excursion to see ‘Come From Away’, and once a term or so I’d pop into the staffroom at lunchtime to catch up. It’s been lovely to see the kids and my friends, but do I wish myself back?

Not on your life!!

Scout.

Little Adventures #9: The most hilarious Little Adventure of them all! December 2021.

The last Little Adventure for the year was a very special one. My son Evan25 and his friend have written and performed in a show. Long term readers of this blog might remember when he went off to study an acting degree in Ballarat, when I wrote a post about what my second-generation FIRE kid has learned about money.

Long term readers of the Frogblog would know that Evan25 was that really interested 11-year-old bobbing around reading over my shoulder as I typed the very first post back in September 2007.

Now, 14 years later, I was travelling into the Melbourne CBD to see his first show. I snuck into the Tuesday night show on my own (and had a lovely long debrief with Evan25 the next morning) and I’d also got together around 15 people, family and friends, to see their closing night.

There’s a special kind of joy that comes from seeing your adult child doing the work that they love. Especially if that child is actually good at what they’re doing. Thankfully, their show was excellent. So very, very funny.

His girlfriend Jenna’s parents flew over from Adelaide on the weekend just to see the show. Both of my boys who are partnered up have been fully embraced into their girlfriends’ families, which is a beautiful thing to see. Jenna’s Dad said to me after the show, “At one point I was laughing so hard I got dizzy!”

The following photo gives the synopsis of the show:

As Evan25 said to us on the day we were all finally able to get together after the lockdowns, “It’s just two silly boys on stage. It’s not going to change anyone’s life.”

I said, “That sounds exactly what we all need right now!”

There was one act where there was a jaded female butcher running through her wares, making lots of food jokes. This was Evan25 in an apron, with a shower cap on his head, miming sucking a ciggie. Then, in the middle of it, I hear, “$18.45 a kilo??? Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'”

The first thing I asked him the next day was, “Did I hear an Edgar Allen Poe joke in there???”

He laughed. He said, “When we were writing it Will didn’t want to keep that joke – he said it wasn’t funny and he didn’t get it. I said, ‘Trust me – my Mum’s going to LOVE it!’ I kept that joke just for you.”

He also had the $18.45 price there because ‘The Raven’ was published in 1845. “It’s just a little joke in there for me – no one will ever notice it but I know it’s there.”

He also played a character called Tim, who is a battered-around-the-edges sweet transvestite. Turns out that my boy can really rock a pair of 5″ heels and has a tuck to die for. He has long legs and they look surprisingly good in fishnet stockings. The audience laughed so hard each night when he emerged from behind the curtain in that outfit – I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud. 🙂

Usually, I bang on about being frugal, but this Little Adventure was the priciest one yet. Performers don’t make a lot of money from ticket sales – the venue takes the lion’s share. Where the people who actually produce the show make their money is from the merch. So, of course, I bought one of everything.

But that’s why frugality is so terrific. I save money on things I don’t care about so that I can spend on the things that are important to me, such as supporting my son and his friend.

The very best thing about seeing the show again on Saturday night was watching my family and best friend really see what Evan25 can do. They know him as the funny guy at family gatherings, cracking wordplay puns and one-liners, but they got to see him in all his glory. It was very special as a Mum to bask in their amazed joy at just how funny he is.

Dad joke of the day:

Did I tell you about the time I fell in love during a backflip? I was heels over head. 

Frugal Friday: The no-spend week.

screenshot of a chart.

After my mammoth 61 week streak on the No Spend Days chart which ended when Jeffrey had to go to the vet on a Friday, I had a 14-week stint before I had to keep going to the hardware to buy things that David28 needed when he was building frames over the wicking beds. Now I’ve started again…

If you look at the chart, I’ve technically already performed a 7-day in-a-row streak of not spending any money, but I’m holding off so that there’s a full line of colour on the chart. It looks far more like a full week when it’s all in the one line.

These are the stupid ways that make this chart work so well for me. By far the best idea was making each week that I spend money on 3 days or less a ‘silver’ week. Once you start to get a continuous streak going it’s hard to break the chain.

This all serves to make my spending intentional. I still spend money – but I now do it in blocks, rather than just let dollars dribble from my wallet without realising.

meme

Another bonus to having this chart is that it makes it very easy to track spending in various categories. This came in very handy when a friend at work and then a neighbour told me about a very good – and far cheaper – vet in the next suburb over. Of course, I had to check him out.

The vet that the Little Woofs have been going to since we moved here is literally around the corner. Over the 5 years we’ve been living here I’ve spent thousands there, what with Scout swallowing a pip and getting an intestinal blockage; Poppy and Jeff having teeth extractions left, right and centre, as well as the usual injections and stuff.

When Jeff put his back out a few weeks ago I was able to easily compare prices by quickly scanning last year’s chart. Again, this isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s nice to have an easily-accessible way to look things up.

And yes; this vet is cheaper and I got a good vibe from him. We’ve swapped over.

Poppy the cavalier.

It helps that this week has been a quiet one, where I pretty much stayed home and puddled around. This is where I’m really reaping the benefits of preparing The Best House in Melbourne for retirement, while I was still working. There have been a couple of days in the garden, a few more reading and sewing days, while at night I have Netflix, Stan or Apple+.

I had a few self-sown silverbeet plants that after a year or so were going to seed themselves, so I chopped off all of the good leaves, added some water and ground them down to a paste in the thermomix. I’ve frozen them in ice cubes and I’ll add them to soups, stews and bologneses in the winter. Just like a green vitamin pill!

I’m a ‘chop and drop’ gardener, so the rest of the stalks and leaves were chopped into small pieces and left to lie on the wicking beds as a mulch. This adds so much goodness to the soil – for free! It takes a lot more time to do this, rather than just ripping them out and throwing them in the green bin, but the improvement in the soil over time is absolutely worth it. Plus – I’m retired! I have the time.

I don’t switch the tv on during the day, unless it’s 45C outside and all anyone wants to do is sit under the air-con and zone out, so my days are spent doing whatever I feel like doing, while at night I chip away at whatever series I’m watching at the time.

Today, in order to make sure that I don’t accidentally rush out in a frenzy and spend money, I’ve taken the dogs out to post a letter to Vanguard – (how ANYONE can fill in that stupid US taxation form is beyond me… this is my second go at it) – and then we took a detour home and went for a walk beside the river.

On the way home I went and had a look at a house that was sold recently for what seemed like a LOT of money for what looked like a bit of a dogbox. It was even worse than it looked online. Oof.

Then I wrote this post. After this, will I go and have a nap? Or will I keep working on David28’s quilt? Or will I go out and do some more ‘chopping and dropping’ in the veggie garden? Or maybe I should go out to the front garden and tidy up the weeds in the garden bed near the apple trees? Hmmm, there’s that book Tom29 bought me for my birthday that I haven’t yet picked up. The Colour of Money – maybe I should crack that open and dive in? I loved the writing in The Queen’s Gambit, so this one should be good too.

So many options. All able to be done here, without having to race off elsewhere.

I’m really enjoying this new phase in my life, eleven months in. I have yet to be bored, which I think is pretty special.

Dad joke of the day:

Did you hear about the maths teacher that was afraid of negative numbers?

He would stop at nothing to avoid them.

It’s the little things.

Bedding.

This morning was another cold and rainy one in Melbourne’s bout of wintery weather. It’s a Tuesday morning during term 4 of school. It was probably around 7 AM. I stirred, then heard heavy rain start to fall on the tin roof outside.

“Hmmm, guess I’ll roll over and go back to sleep. Don’t want to take the dogs out in that,” I thought.

We ended up with feet hitting the floor at 7:50 AM… exactly the time that in years gone by I’d be racing out the door, thinking, “Oh shit, I’m late!!”

I like retirement. The mornings are so peaceful, warm and snuggly.

Sewing.

I’m making a quilt for my son David28. It was designed by his younger brother, Ryan26, and it’s HUGE!. It’s queen-sized and will measure 99″ X 99″ (251cm X 251cm). ****

I was happily sewing away yesterday when I made a mistake which needed what seemed like 1400 hours with the Quickunpick. I was ripping seams and trying to get corners right and it was quite the exercise in concentration.

I want to have this quilt finished by Christmas.

In days gone by, the only times I had available to quilt was weekends and school holidays, where I had to fit it around everything else that also needed doing. Fixing a mistake like this used to have an extra layer of angst because “I don’t have TIME for this!!!!”

How often have I said that sentence over the years?

Yesterday, as I sat doggedly ripping and stitching away, I knew it’d take some time but I’d work it out. If necessary, I could take all afternoon to get it right and it wouldn’t matter at all. Instead of only having 5 weekends before Christmas to finish this absolute monster-sized quilt, I have 5 whole weeks.

It was such a novelty to feel so calm when I was working on a mistake.

I like retirement. It’s so soothing.

Twitter.

On Twitter, I saw a post by Gwen. She was asking about how many alarms people have on their phones. People were sending in videos of them scrolling down, showing 10, 20 , 30+ alarms. Others were replying, saying they had 50+ alarms, ranging from wake-ups to 5 minute warnings before meetings.

I like retirement. No more startling noises in the early mornings.

Goodreads challenge.

I’ve always loved reading. I could read before I went to school and it has always been a beautiful refuge for me. I’ve been tracking my reading each year on the Frog Blog since 2007 and this is definitely the year that I’ve read the most.

My ‘Earn My Rates Back’ challenge has definitely helped, but suddenly having 10 extra hours each weekday – and that’s only if there wasn’t an hour-long meeting tacked on at the end of the school day; then it’s be closer to 12 hours because of peak hour traffic – means that if I choose to spend an afternoon engrossed in a storyline, then I can.

When I read a new-to-me book, I find that I have to gulp it down in huge chunks. No spreading it out over 4 weeks reading a page or so a day for me! No – I have to find out what happens as soon as possible, so when I pick up a new book it’s lots of consecutive hours spent with that book and nothing else.

Because of that, most of my reading during term times was RE-reading books. I already knew what was going to happen, so I could pick them up and put them down far more easily. It’s like visiting an old friend. And really, who has the time to fully immerse yourself in a world during term times?

So my new books were almost always read during holidays.

Now? Every day’s a holiday. I’ve read more new-to-me books than I ever have before. And I’m loving it.

I like retirement. I’ve been able to live so many more lives than I ever have before.

And now, before I zip off into the sewing room to chip away at David28’s quilt, here’s why I used inches instead of the by FAR more sensible centimetres when I was talking about it before:

**** Some of you who aren’t quilters might wonder why I’ve measured the monster-sized quilts in inches. Despite being one of only 3 countries IN THE WHOLE WORLD to use imperial measurements, the majority of quilters are in the US, so inches are used.

Ugh. Even the people who invented imperial measurements have moved to metric!

Dad joke for today:

The rotation of Earth really makes my day.  

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