My son Evan26 is performing his first solo show called Long Play in Carlton for the Melbourne Comedy Festival. His girlfriend Jenna is doing the tech stuff and they’re working hard and having a ball. I went to see it on Tuesday night and I’ll be back on Sunday night with my cousins and Ryan28 to see it again. He’s a very funny guy and the show is well worth seeing.
It’s a comedic music lecture about how to make the perfect music album. He’s been very clever about how he’s written it – I was wondering if I’d get all of the music references, not being totally up with the groovy new songs of the younger folk, but it was all good. The jokes are funny whether you know the artists he’s talking about or not. That’s my boy!
(I can’t rave like mad about it because people will get deeply suspicious, thinking that I’m only saying that it’s funny because he’s my son. It’s true. He IS my son. But it’s also true that it’s very funny.)
Anyway, last night I was at one with the couch after finishing my 10-week teaching contract, watching The Hunger Games because I didn’t want anything that I needed to concentrate on, when I got a series of texts from Evan26:
OMG!!!! Our worlds have collided! Of course I rang him straight away and the three of us had an excited chat while they were in the tram on their way to the Performers Lounge for the festival. How incredible!!!!
(Also incredible that someone actually reads this blog. I was starting to wonder…) LOL.
His last text made me laugh, because we were all absolutely losing our shit when we were on the phone. What a thing to happen!
I was going to put up a post about this in the morning, asking, “Own up now… who are you?” but Katie beat me to it. I woke up to her comment this morning:
Thank you so much Katie! Also, thanks for raising a son who is obviously really on the ball. I’m pretty sure this is Evan26’s first experience of being recognised on the street. What a thrill!
I just love our little corner of the internet. We have such lovely people here.
Evan26’s show: Long Play. From now until April 13th ( which is the day before he’ll be a groomsman at David29’s wedding.)
Jenna’s show: Underwire. From Tuesday 18th April to Saturday 22nd April.
Evan26 is on stage for both shows, so they had to make sure they were scheduled for different weeks. Busy, busy, busy!
Last week I received a text from the guy who used to share a flat with Tom31, asking if he could call me. Although Tom31 left the flat on bad terms with this guy, it’s been over a year since that all happened, Tom31 now has his own place and they have friends in common. They now have a civil relationship. Let’s call him Fergus.
I also knew that Fergus had unexpectedly lost his Mum a few days before. Fergus and his Mum were close and she also had a great relationship with my son. She did the conveyancing on his property and only charged him ‘mates rates’ and they always got along like a house on fire.
Of course, I took his call.
What followed was heart-aching.
Fergus was still reeling over his mother’s death. He called me because he really wanted to keep his Mum’s house and he wanted some unbiased advice. He has two siblings who want to sell it and split the proceeds equally.
“How much is your Mum’s place worth, roughly? Is there a mortgage on it?’ I asked.
“It’s worth around 1.2M and she paid it off,” he said.
“What assets do you own?” I asked.
“I have around $500 in the bank,” he said.
I sighed. “I’m sorry Fergus, but no bank will lend you that much money if you have nothing to offer as collateral. You’ll have to let the house go.”
He sighed as well and said that he thought so, but he wanted to hear it from someone who wasn’t out to make something from the sale.
He’d said earlier that the house was like a refuge for him – that when he’d had a rough day, he’d “get off at her station, go around there and we’d solve the world’s problems over a bucket of wine. “
I gently said, “You know how you talked about her house as being like a refuge? It wasn’t the house; it was the person. I suggest that you go around there on your own one day, walk around and quietly say your goodbyes. Then once the house is sold, you can move forward with whatever money you get from it as her legacy.”
“That’s the problem,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve already had people making suggestions about investments, but I feel so confused.” He added bitterly, “Her body isn’t even cold yet and people are already picking at what she left.”
Yikes. It was a few days before the funeral, so I totally got what he was saying.
What could I say? I’m not a numbers person. But then I thought: what advice would I want someone to give one of my boys if I suddenly popped my clogs? I’d want them to be given advice that was safe, conservative, and would be easy to implement when they were still grieving and not able to think clearly. Advice that would allow the dust to settle before any life-changing decisions were made.
It also had to fit in with the stage of life Fergus is in.
He’s not in a relationship. He’s not starting a family and looking to put down roots in a house that will suck up all of his money and shackle him into a mortgage for the next two decades. (This is the position one of his siblings is in – they’ll be using the money as a house deposit for their young family.)
Fergus is still studying. Once that’s done, he’ll be putting his efforts into establishing his new career. Who knows? He may decide that he wants to spend that money on buying into a law firm somewhere. He may choose to relocate to another city or country. His options are wide open. He probably needs that pool of money to be safely waiting for him.
Yes, he might make a few extra dollars if he put it into shares, but I still think that on balance, safety trumps a little profit. Besides, the way the share market has been bouncing around? A little profit isn’t exactly a certain bet in the short term.
I decided to go with the term deposit route. Luckily for him, interest rates are better on savings accounts than they have been for a long time.
My advice was to put 90% of whatever money he received from his Mum’s estate into a term deposit and to leave it there for 12 months.
“The other 10%? Spend it. Go on a big holiday, buy some clothes, furniture… whatever you want. She’d want you to enjoy it. But DON’T spend any more than that. Respect her legacy and only deploy it for something that’s going to establish your way in the world – whatever that turns out to be.”
I then added, “And for God’s sake don’t put any of it into crypto!”
He laughed ruefully. “I’ve already been burned by that,” he said.
“Hey, how lucky is it that you learned that lesson when you didn’t have a lot of money to lose?” I said. “Don’t beat yourself up over it; just be glad that you’re not going to make the same mistake with your Mum’s money.”
“I definitely won’t! he said.
“If you do what I’m saying, it gives you time to move through your grief and not risk making big decisions when you’re not thinking clearly. Then, when the dust has settled and you have a clearer idea of what you want to do, then you can make decisions that aren’t going to be based on raw emotion. Besides, speaking as a single mother myself, it’s hard to pay off a house on your own. You don’t want to waste her final legacy for you.”
‘You’re absolutely right,” he said. “That’s the last thing I want to do.”
At the end of the call he thanked me, saying that he felt at peace for the first time since all of this stuff started to come up.
“I think I’ll do what you suggest,” he said. “It sounds really sensible and it gives me time to breathe. Is it ok if I call you again when it comes closer to the time?”
Of course I said yes.
But this conversation really gave me food for thought.
We all expect to live till we’re old. My own parents are both in their 80’s, still living together at home and although they’ve slowed down, they’re still going strong. I don’t know about you, but any thoughts I’ve had of my children inheriting my estate have them all as grey-haired old men, with decades more life experience behind them than they have now.
But what if a similar thing happens to us? Fergus’s Mum was only in her late 60’s.
How would the boys make these huge financial decisions if I suddenly wasn’t here?
It’s a big responsibility to suddenly have a large sum of money given to you at any age. Not many people in their 20’s and 30’s have a rock-solid plan in their minds of what they’d do with a cash windfall of a few hundred thousand dollars. (And if any of my sons did, I’d be a bit worried that they’d decide that I was worth more to them dead than alive…)
I don’t know what the answer is. Do we write a letter “to be opened in the case of my unfortunate demise” to be read aloud, giving our advice? Do we hope that older, wiser people will take our loved ones under their wings and give them excellent advice? What if there’s no one around our kids who is good with money?
It’s a conundrum.
At the end of the day, I gave Fergus the same advice, given his situation, that I’d hope that someone else would give my kids if we were in the same situation. I can’t do any better than that. It was heartbreaking though, seeing a young man almost shell-shocked with grief and yet being forced to grapple with uncharted financial waters like this.
It made me hope that my boys will never be in a position like this. At least, not until they’re grey-haired old men! But if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, I hope that they have access to someone who will give them sound, unbiased advice to give them time to come to terms with their new reality and that they’ll be able to make unrushed, sensible decisions.
Anyway, this is the sort of stuff that I haven’t given much thought to until now. When they were small, I worried more about who would look after them if I suddenly died, rather than worry about inheritances. Once they grew up, I didn’t think about this stuff because, as I said at the start, I probably believed that I was immortal.
I’ll be doing a bit more thinking about this…
Dad joke of the day:
My wife told me to stop singing “I’m a Believer” or she’d kill me. I thought she was kidding..
“Kids. Can’t shoot ’em, can’t tie ’em to a tree!” said one of my American friends in a heavy Southern accent to me when my boys were young. It made me laugh.
Most FI/RE bloggers who have kids seem to be young parents, so their posts are all about paying for child care, sourcing cheap clothing, and optimising after-school activities. Fair enough – I used to be concerned with those things too.
I’m writing this to forewarn you all that even when your kids enter adulthood, there are still possible expenses that you’ll choose to bear. I have 4 adult sons, ages 30, 28,27, and 25. You’d think that as a frugal person, I would have locked them out of the house the instant they turned 18 and abandoned them to let them make their own ways in the world. But it’s a funny thing… parents become quite attached to the humans that they’ve made and even when they grow taller than us, we still want the best for them.
So what’s the best thing to do, financially speaking, once the kids grow up?
We all know the wisdom encapsulated in ‘The Millionaire Next Door‘, (excellent book, by the way), that shows that adult kids who rely on their parents’ “economic outpatient care” end up significantly worse off than those who don’t receive it.
So what is Economic Outpatient Care?
It’s substantial gifts, usually financial, acts of ‘kindness’ etc that allow the adult children to live a lifestyle beyond what they can afford by themselves.
Adult children who sit around waiting for the next dose of economic outpatient care are usually less productive than those who forge their own paths. Cash gifts are too often earmarked for spending and the support of an unrealistically high lifestyle. This Economic Outpatient Care to adult children typically results in:
encouraging more consumption than saving and investing.
the gift receivers never fully distinguish between their wealth and the wealth of their gift-giving parents. (THIS WOULD ANNOY ME NO END!!!)
gift receivers are significantly more dependent on credit than are non-receivers.
receivers of gifts invest much less money than non-receivers.
When I read The Millionaire Next Door more than a decade ago, it cemented the decision I made about whether or not to help pay for the boys’ uni fees. I decided that they were responsible for their uni fees, books, and so on.
They needed skin in the game.
I would support them by not charging them board while they were studying for their first degree, and paying for any medical bills they might incur. Typically, this ended up being dental.
Fast forward a decade or so and I have four sons, all with tertiary qualifications that they’re paying off. (Higher Education Loan Program). They pay their own bills and receive no regular financial assistance from me. Anyone who chooses to live at home pays $50/week board, which I put aside in a savings account and will give back to them when they leave. This is a choice I’ve made because I’m in a financial position to be able to do this. Believe me, if I needed the money, I’d be spending it!
When David28 and Izzy decided they were going to tie the knot, I told them I’d contribute 5K to their wedding. Obviously, in my head, I’ve multiplied that by four to account for the other three boys. I’ve also told everyone that this is a first-wedding-only deal… any weddings after that, they’re on their own.
They are also able to take a week-long honeymoon using points from my timeshare to pay for their accommodation. David28 and Izzy will be going to New Zealand using this offer. They’ll be paying for every other expense themselves.
That was all I thought I’d do for the boys. Giving them a bit of help when they get married, as most parents do. After all, the last thing I want to do is weaken them. Life’s tough enough without deliberately making them vulnerable to every strong wind that blows. I raised my boys to be independent men. No handouts from The Bank of Mum!
But then something changed.
When Tom30 unexpectedly boomeranged home at the end of February, he was already saving for a deposit and was about a third of the way there. He’d been out from home for 7 years, paying around $250/week in rent, sharing a flat with a friend. Initially, he was only going to stay a few weeks, but when I told him about the $50/week board, he did some mathematics. He’s an accountant, poor thing, so doing the maths was inevitable.
He asked if he could stay longer, to accelerate the savings for a deposit.
I liked the sound of this, so I agreed. After all, he was 30 now and it was time to start getting some assets together. He changed jobs last year, nearly doubling his income in the process, so I was pleased to hear that he was looking to get ahead.
Then, I sat back and watched.
Would he be a typical ‘Millionaire Next Door’ second-generation child who’d work out how to make it on his own, or would he loll around and expect economic outpatient care?
Tom30 works in a company with mortgage brokers, so he picked their brains and found out about how to harness Superannuation to stretch his dollars, how to avoid paying LMI (Lenders’ Mortgage Insurance) and which criteria the banks would use to assess his loan application, along with a lot of other stuff that I’ve forgotten. When Tom30 starts spitting out numbers, it all begins to merge together for me.
Once he got his head around this information, he set his budget targets, home loan target amount, and savings timeline. We then started driving around and looking at apartments and units/townhouses in his (then) price range of high 400’s. Given this price range, looking at freestanding houses was simply not an option. He works very near the CBD so his commute time was a consideration.
What did I think of his plans?
I admired how clearly he’d laid out his way forward. I thought there was a bit too much fat with his spending money, but then, I’ve been through hard times where I really had to tighten my belt in order for the boys and me to keep the roof over our heads. But then, I realised that this is an area that could always be adjusted if needed. Flexibility is key.
All things considered, I was happy with it. He was finding solutions by himself and was all set to be in a property by the end of the year.
All went along swimmingly for quite a while until the reserve bank started to raise interest rates. That in itself wasn’t a problem – Tom30 had stress-tested his calculations to account for a 7% interest rate which we’re nowhere near (yet) – but suddenly the banks reduced the amount that he could borrow.
Overnight, this went from around 520K down to 475K. Real estate prices were softening, but nowhere near at this rate! If too much time went by, he’d miss his chance to get into the market for a 2BR place. I could see him getting stressed about it. When Tom30 decides he wants to do something, he gets very focused.
I did some thinking.
He needed a little more to get his deposit together, so I told him about the wedding gift of 5K that I’ve earmarked for each child and asked if he’d prefer to use this money as part of his deposit instead. Seeing as he’s single at the moment, he chose to do this.
Of course, I told him that when he DOES get married, he has to tell his beloved that I’ve already paid for my share of the wedding! There’ll be no double-dipping on my watch!
Then, a week or so later, we saw the perfect place for him.
It’s a couple of suburbs over, in an area that is starting to gentrify. It’s a 2BR unit with minimal body corporate fees and is in really good nick, very close to a train station, which will definitely come in handy. He first saw it when I was away on my Little Adventure in Manly, As soon as he was back in the car he rang me and we talked it through. I went with him to see it the following weekend when I was back in Melbourne.
I liked it. It was definitely one of the nicer properties we’d looked at. Honestly, property prices are crazy. The number of absolute dog boxes we looked at that had asking prices around the half million mark was appalling. This one has new flooring, was freshly painted and had new blinds. The kitchen and laundry will need renovating at some stage but everything else was good to go. It was a definite step up from the cruddy little flat he’d lived in during his twenties and, as he says, it’s future-proof. There’s enough room for two, or even two and a baby. And if he stays single, he’d be able to live there for ages quite happily.
The area it’s in is ok, but is definitely on an upward trajectory. In a few years it’ll be described as being in “a most sought-after location, close to beaches, transport and every amenity.” It’s a good buy, if you have an eye for the future.
He wanted to put in an offer, but he was missing a little from his deposit. Interest rates were set to rise and the banks would cut his borrowing power every time this happened. It was a very depressing balancing act that he was undergoing.
I had to do some more thinking. Honestly, all this thinking was getting exhausting. And expensive. But would I be weakening him by helping out a bit more, or would I be helping someone who deserves it?
The good thing was that it was obvious that he was doing everything he could to get there. There was no lolling around going on. All he needed was a start… some seed money, if you will.
I had 10K in cash in my emergency account, sitting in an online bank. I’ve written a few times before about how important an emergency fund has been to me. It’s saved our bacon a few times, turning what could have been huge dramas into mildly inconvenient occurrences, simply because I had the money set aside to deal with them.
That emergency fund was my first line of defense against things going wrong. But I also have 3 years of expenses put aside in a term deposit to guard against Sequence of Return Risk when the stock market falls. Obviously, I have enough money, combined with my CRT work, to look after myself. Meanwhile, my son needed a hand.
I won’t lie; it was hard to withdraw that 10K and flick it over to him. This was the emergency fund that has represented security to me for well over two decades. But once it was gone, I felt nothing but good about it. He’s taking on a loan of around 450K, which is a heck of a lot of money. Me giving him an extra 10K towards the loan isn’t going to ‘save’ him from having to make sacrifices and to be disciplined with his finances, but it’ll help him right now when he needs it.
This isn’t Economic Outpatient Care. It’s a one-time gift to help him as he’s starting out. He’ll have plenty of time to struggle and develop a backbone! It takes quite a while to pay off 450K.
Besides, even if I was inclined to baby him and lavish money on him, I can’t afford it. I have 3 other children, after all. I have to provide the same help to all of them.
Fortunately, the younger two won’t be looking to get into the property market for years, while David28 has a wedding to pay for before he and Izzy can even think of saving for a deposit. I have time to spread out these gifts.
Anyway, a week ago Tom30 put in an offer, with a bid of 470K. There were 4 other bidders, all of whom were property investors. One couple outbid him by 5K.
Tom30 got the property! The owner decided that he’d rather sell to a young person just starting out, rather than to someone buying their 9th property. Isn’t that fantastic? Who knows, maybe sometime in the future Tom30 will be able to pay that forward to someone else.
The bank put a spanner in the works by insisting on a 10% deposit instead the 5% that Tom30 was aiming for. Remember how I said that his budget was a little ‘roomier’ than I thought was necessary? Now all of that is gone. After he approached his father for a little bit of help and was rudely knocked back, a family friend who has known him since he was a child offered to loan him the cash to make up any shortfall by the time settlement is required. They were disgusted by my ex-husband’s attitude, as is everyone who hears about it, and they decided that Tom30 deserves a start.
Fortunately, he has a long settlement, so he’ll be living with Ryan27 and me until October. We’ll be looking on Marketplace for free/cheap furniture and appliances, though he already has a free washing machine that a mate from school has given him. He accepted the offer from our family friend and he’s determined to borrow as little as possible from them. He’s selling everything he owns that isn’t nailed down and is actively looking for accounting customers to bring into the company he works for to add to his income through commissions.
I’m very pleased, though not surprised, to see that this son is doing as much as he can to get the property he wants with as little help as possible. He’s always been extremely organised with his finances.
It was interesting to see how my thoughts and ideas evolved around the question of how much or how little to help my adult children. When they first emerged into young adulthood, I pulled back on the financial help I gave them. They were told, “My job was to get you through secondary school. You’re absolutely expected to get a qualification, but YOU are responsible for paying for it.”
They have spent their 20’s learning how to rely on themselves and to become independent, especially the oldest and youngest who’ve both been out of home for years.
Now, when they’ve settled into their adult lives and are wanting to take the next steps forward, I’m prepared to give them a little help along the way – if they’ve already demonstrated that they’re putting in the effort.
I’ve come to realise that it’s fair enough. A little help is beneficial… it’s when too much ‘help’ is lavished upon them that the rot sets in.
As I’ve said before, if you look at the cost of an entire wedding or the total cost of a mortgage, the help I’m giving barely moves the needle. 15K in a 450K loan is a drop in the ocean.
But if you look at the up-front costs of getting that seed money together, the help I’m giving will spit off huge dividends in the years to come. Everyone needs to start from somewhere. Getting a little help at the start is a great gift that I can give my boys.
It’s funny – I began the trek of getting to financial independence for a lot of good reasons. But once I got there, the freedom to do all sorts of things I’d never thought of has been amazing.
This is just one more.
Dad joke of the day:
I would love to get paid to sleep. It’d be a dream job.
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.
I have a friend who I’ve known for more years than I care to think about. She doesn’t live near me, so when we were in the midst of all the lockdowns we didn’t see each other for months. So once lockdowns were over I was excited to finally clap eyes on her in person.
She and her husband came over for a coffee. She walked into the house, dropped her bag on the table and went over to my pantry door, throwing it open and standing there gazing inside.
I looked at Ryan26 and he raised an eyebrow.
She stood there.
I knew she was probably waiting for attention, but I asked the question anyway.
“Beks, are you looking for anything?”
She turned to face me, saying, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”
A bit of background…
I’ve always bought our groceries in bulk. Back when the boys were little and we were living hand-to-mouth, it was a survival tool. In the years before Aldi came to Australia, I used to shop the specials at the supermarkets and buy 5 or 10 tins/packets/jars of our staple foods when they were cheaper.
This meant that, over time, we were eating a lot of our food at a discounted price. When you’re a struggling single mum with 4 hungry mouths to feed, not counting your own, every single dollar saved is worthwhile. Sure, it costs a little more up-front, but over time the groceries actually work out cheaper.
Having bought that food, it was imperative to keep track of it. No point buying bulk food to save money if you end up having to throw it out because you forgot about it! So my pantry was and is always well-organised. Everything stacked neatly, tins etc rotated with the newer ones going to the back so nothing goes out of date and labels to the front so you can see at a glance what and how many you have of everything.
I remember seeing an Oprah show back when the kids were small where she had a kitchen organiser go through people’s fridges and pantries. I remember him stuffing shopping bags full of one woman’s rotting produce from her crisper and saying, “If you don’t eat the food you bring home, you may as well take $50 notes and throw them straight into the garbage. It’d be quicker and it’d have the same result.”
I never forgot that.
I twigged pretty early on that the longer you stay out of the supermarket, the more money you save. It’s amazing how little treats get popped into the trolley whenever you go shopping. So if I make sure that my house is well-stocked with all of the things we use, then instead of going to the supermarket for inspiration each night for dinner, I can cook meals from what we already have.
Particularly now that there’s only 2 of us living here, I rarely go to Aldi more than once a week – and now that the garden is starting to ramp up, it’ll probably drift out to nearly once a fortnight. After all, if I don’t see those little treats, I can’t buy them! Money saved.
So my pantry has always been well-stocked. During lockdowns, this became a godsend. In between lockdowns, I’d drive to far-away shops like Costco and stock up on the essentials, which for this house is the Little Woofs’ dry and raw dog food, with coffee grounds and dried blueberries for the humans.
When I see tinned sardines in oil at Aldi, for example, I grab a heap because usually, only the sardines in tomato sauce tins are on the shelf. I feed the Little Woofs sardines every week… I’d hate for them to miss out because I didn’t think ahead. Tomato sauce with their sardines isn’t really their thing. (Is it anybody’s?)
What began as a survival strategy when the kids were small has morphed into a convenience thing now that I shop primarily at Aldi. There are no specials anymore, but the money and the time I save by not popping into the supermarket every day or so is worth the cupboard space I have for my zombie apocalypse stores.
Beks, however, is of a different mindset to me.
She and her husband are empty-nesters, so like my household, they’re also feeding just 2 people. The way we handle that job starts off the same, but then quickly veers apart.
We start off thinking about what we’d like to eat that night. Neither of us menu plans for the week or the month like some ultra-organised people do. We ask our husband/son their opinion (sometimes) and we make a decision.
Mine is usually based on what we have a lot of and what needs using up. At the moment, for example, we have a lot of diced chicken that I’ve put into 500g bags in the freezer. At least twice a week, I’ll be pulling out one of those bags to use.
Beks, on the other hand, decides what they’ll eat that night regardless of what’s in the house. She goes food shopping almost daily.
They also refuse to eat the same thing two nights running. Ryan26 and I have fallen into the habit of cooking one night, then eating the same meal again the next night, or freezing the leftovers if we need to. Beks just cooks half-portions of what she used to cook when the kids were home, so they don’t have m/any leftovers.
There’s no right or wrong to this. It’s just two different ways of tackling the “what will we have for dinner?” question that we all have to answer every day.
Beks turned away from my pantry and said, “I just can’t believe that you shop the way you do. It’s hysterical!”
I knew that there was no point in getting all riled up or defensive. She does her thing and I do mine. It’s all good. But I wasn’t going to let her get away with making a dig at me for no reason. A girl has to stand her ground in her own kitchen, after all.
I cocked my head to one side and said, “Comes in bloody handy during a pandemic, though. While everyone was dodging covid doing their shopping, I was here all safe and sound.”
She looked back into the pantry and said, “It’s funny, the way you have a bucket of Vegemite here.”
I chuckled. “Won’t have to even think about buying more for years!”
She shrugged and I moved past her to put the kettle on. She saw the bowl of used coffee grounds and eggshells that we have beside the kettle. When the bowl is full I blitz the contents and dig them into the veggie gardens to feed the worms. In turn, they feed my veggies, which in turn, feed us.
Circle of life. Hakuna Matata.
“You DO know that it’s not normal to have coffee grounds just sitting there?” she said.
“Of course it is, Beks… when you’re a permaculture household,” I said. I don’t know if she’s up to speed on what permaculture is, but as her husband came in from outside the conversation moved on.
As I made the coffees, Ryan26 and I exchanged a simple shake of the head and a smile. Ahhh Beks. Every now and then she has to try and take a dig…
We know why we run the house the way we do, and we know that the things we do work well for us. For me, the comfort of having a well-stocked pantry and zombie apocalypse cupboard gives me a sense of security that is a beautiful thing to live with.
It’s simply another tool for designing my life so that my retirement is stress-free and comfortable. And yes; 11 months in, retirement is still bloody wonderful!
I’ve always felt that a financial reading list was a necessary thing that this blog lacked. As an educator, this was something I had to fix. What’s the purpose of finding out about things if you can’t share the love with other people?
I thought I’d get onto it straight away. But damn… Retirement’s just so good! The last 10 months have drifted by so quickly, even in lockdowns. It was always on my mind in that annoying, ever-present ‘To Do’ list that I carry around in my brain.
It’s easy to ignore your own list. But then last week I had two readers contact me and ask if I could put them onto some books to buy for their kids to get them off to a good start. What better way to answer than to share the books that I’ve given to my own family?
If you look up at the header, you’ll see I’ve added a new page. This page is a little different to the ones on other blogs because the first list of books are the ones that I’ve been buying for my 4 sons and 2 nieces each Christmas. These are the books that I wanted to have on the kids’ shelves so that when they were ready for the information, they’d have everything they need right at their fingertips.
Some of the books are designed for young people starting off. Others are the books that helped me on my learning curve of getting my head around Financial Independence and investing, back when I was a single mother desperate to claw my way out of the hole I found myself in. Of course, I want the kids to have the information NOW, not to wait until their 40’s and 50’s like I did.
These books are the bare necessities of a great framework for understanding how the financial world works, along with understanding debt, investing, and how to efficiently organise your financial life. Anyone who has them on a shelf within easy reach has a fantastic grounding in how to make money work for them, instead of the other way around.
The second list has the books that I’ve enjoyed but were not bought for the kids. At the moment they’re all about different aspects of retirement, but over time this list will be much broader. So much to learn!
Please jump over and have a look at the lists. Let me know what you think. Do you have any recommendations for books that I can tackle for myself, as well as books I can consider for next Christmas?
I’ve realised that now that I’ve retired, there’s one thing I’ll never get again – the December inundation of Lindt balls. Kids give them. Teachers give them to each other. Every year I used to come home with bucketloads of them. To tell the truth, I was so over them.
But this year? I was about to start giving them away as I always did, when I suddenly realised… this is IT! I’ll never have too many of these chocolatey morsels again.
So I’ve been eating them. Two or three a night for a sweet treat in front of Netflix. Savouring them. I’d actually forgotten how nice they are.
I have two packets to go.
It turns out that both Purple from A Purple Life and I have had the Month of Naps in the first burst of our early retirement lives. She retired in November, a month earlier than I did, and a few decades before I did – at 30. It’s now a calendar month after I retired and the naps continue unabated.
And when I say ‘naps’; I mean serious naps. Two hours or so. Dreams. Waking up in the same position that you drifted off to sleep in. It’s crazy.
I wasn’t totally taken by surprise by this. Every summer holidays I have a week or two of days where a nap is needed, but then I bounce back to normal and I start Getting Things Done. I’ve read blog posts where other people have said that they had an extended period of time where they’d need to sleep a lot.
So I was ready – eager, even! Who doesn’t like a revivifying nanna nap in the middle of the day?
But this is ridiculous. I’m so glad I didn’t schedule a huge round the world trip – or in these covid times; round Australia trip – to celebrate my new life-long freedom. At this rate, I’d still be on the outskirts of Melbourne.
A couple of days ago I sacrificed having a nanna nap and instead I drove up to Ballarat to help my youngest son, Evan24, to move back to Melbourne after finishing his course. I wrote about him 2 years ago in a post called “What has my second-gen FIRE child learned about money? He and his girlfriend have finished their degrees – he in Acting and she in Music Theatre – and they’ve moved back to Melbourne to begin the next stage of their lives.
It’s funny how both of us are at a similar point. After we arrived at the new place ahead of the moving truck, he and I decided to pop out for a quick bite and then we sat in the car and gossiped. I haven’t seen all that much of him over the last 3 years and as I’m not the sort of parent who demands daily updates, when we do get together there’s a lot to catch up on. Speaking in person is very different from talking on the phone.
At one point I asked him what his plans were for the rest of the year. He smiled and said, “Well, my job, before I find a job, is to find a job! But apart from that, my days are clear. It’s up to me to fill them.”
Then he looked over at me and said, “A bit like you, I guess.”
I laughed. It’s true.
I suggested we go out to dinner when he turns 30, to look back on how his 20’s were spent. He’s going into a notoriously unstable field, so the next few years are going to be interesting. Fortunately, he’s worked in retail, hospo and in an office, so he’ll have a lot of scope to find a reasonable day job while he creates opportunities for the acting side. And his twenties are definitely the time to do it.
I’ve just realised there’s at least one thing that I’ll always have from my teaching days. See this apricot? Five years ago my first year 12 Theatre Studies class gave me an apricot tree as a thank-you after our production. It languished in a pot until I planted it at The Best House in Melbourne last year.
It bore fruit for the first time this year. Only a few, but omg so delicious.
Instead of a bucketful of Lindt balls each Christmas, I’ll be picking a bucketful of apricots that were given to me, with love, by one of my favourite classes.
Anyone who’s been reading FI/RE blogs for more than 5 minutes would be utterly familiar with the whole ‘Ant and the Grasshopper‘ philosophy that runs through this way of looking at finances. Bloggers instruct people to utilise these tools: frugality, delayed gratification, increasing income, saving, investing and avoiding lifestyle creep in order to reach the holy grail of financial independence. Work hard now so you have options later! Build for the future!
It’s a theme that runs through many things in life.
Such as an orchard.
In our old house, I spent many years establishing a food forest, complete with chooks, metres of vegetable beds and over 30 fruit trees. When I sold that place and moved down here to The Best House in Melbourne, I had to leave most of that behind. I dragged a few wicking boxes and fruit trees in pots with us, but the carefully nurtured soil and the veggie beds are now buried underneath the townhouses that are now on the block.
But the wicking beds weren’t the only things I brought with me. I had a ton of learning and information stuffed in my brain about all I wanted to grow. Those years at the old place weren’t wasted.
While I was waiting for the property deal to go through, I had 18 months of time where I could plot and plan. I focussed on the backyard first, where I eventually installed 16 metres of wicking vegetable beds, an asparagus patch, areas for a few fruit trees and roofed over literally half the yard to create a huge outdoor room.
But the front yard was pretty much left to its own devices. Until now.
My vision for this house has always been clear. I want this place to be a haven and a refuge for my family. I want it to be a place where we can all gather and enjoy our time together. I want the boys- and one day, their families – to to walk through the front gate and know that this is a place where they are welcomed, loved and appreciated.
I want people to open the front gate and be amazed at the beautiful and bountiful oasis that is hidden behind the high front fence, with a mix of blossoms and edibles that are a feast for the eye as well as the stomach. I see some quirky artworks scattered throughout the house and garden, chosen with no one’s aesthetic taste but my own. Hey, being single has to have some advantages!
I’m designing this house and plot of land with a definite eye for the future – just as everyone who is on the FI/RE path does when they encounter these ideas and start to put them into action.
But like everyone on the FI/Re path, I haven’t performed every step towards this orchard perfectly. I’ve made mistakes:
Take these sorry specimens. These are avocado trees that I bought last year. I left them sitting in a old dog bowl that contained a lot of water. They were there for months. I didn’t realise that avocados hate wet feet…
It’s a bit like someone thinking they’re doing the right thing by putting all of their money into term deposits instead of investing. Any vigorous growth that money might have seen is instead cut short and turns all wilty.
I’ve planted them anyway, hoping that at least one of them will come good. If they both die, I’ll plant something else. If only one dies, I’ll drive down to Diggers and pick out another one. They need two trees to pollinate.
This is what happens when you don’t keep an eye on things. This poor naked tree is a mandarin. I brought it with me from the old house and it was parked among the wicking boxes. I walk past it quite a bit, but apart from noticing that the possums were eating the top growth, I stopped paying it much heed.
Until the day I decided I wanted to create an orchard in the front yard. I went to drag it out of its pot and I gasped. Where have all the leaves gone?!? The lemon tree in the pot next to it, also a tree from the old house, was half naked. I searched the leaves and found some little brown caterpillars, which I crushed.
Exactly like a FIRE person who parks their investments somewhere and then doesn’t keep an eye on fees and charges and other costs. When they eventually wander back to see how their pot of money is going, all the luxuriant growth they were expecting has been eaten away.
The actual plant is still alive, so I’ve put it in the ground, fed and watered it well. I’m expecting that with the added attention it’ll get from being in my direct line of vision ever time I open my front door, it’ll bounce back.
I don’t think I need to extend the metaphor any more. You get the point.
On my birthday last week, I treated myself to 2 plum trees and 4 columnar apples. The plums were so large that they touched the windscreen and I had to sit crookedly all the way home. The apples are destined to be planted beside the car in the driveway, as they’ll take up very little room, but I had bigger plans for the plums.
I decided to take over half my front lawn and plant an orchard. I knew that it would look AWFUL in the short-term, especially with the bedraggled survivors from my years of benign neglect. But imagine in the future…
… glossy green leaves and trees loaded with fruit. Underplanted bulbs and flowery shrubs adding pops of colour. Artfully placed sculptures adding humour and life. Old Lady Frogdancer sitting on the verandah with a shiraz or gin and tonic, chatting with a visitor while enjoying the view. People walking past on the street outside, unaware of the beauty hidden within.
After the boys planted the trees for me, I dragged them out again to construct a no-dig garden over the lawn. I’d done this before at the old house for my orchard there, so I know it’ll work. We’d positioned the trees so they wouldn’t shade each other, or the tumbling compost bins, too much, but now we had to kill the grass.
The plan is that I’ll not touch this garden bed until Spring next year, except to kill off any stray bits of grass that might pop up. I’ll let it burble away, creating the rich soil that I’ll plant the flowers in. Both with gardening and investing – things take time to come to fruition.
I have nothing but time. The edging will one day be made permanent, the apple trees in their pots will be planted on the other side of the yard once I get the new side fence built and painted, the flowers will be underplanted to provide colour and softness to the whole yard and it will all look beautiful.
It’s funny to think that a bit of effort up-front – (two afternoon’s work by David26, Ryan25 and myself) – will be feeding us for years to come. It’s a very satisfying thing to build for the future, whether it be financially or in other, more ‘hands-on’ ways. I like to think that the skills and knowledge I gained from working in the old house is now being passed on to the boys. In the future, they’ll know how to build a food garden. They’ll know how to invest.
And step by step, this place will become the place I’ve envisioned.
With all that’s been going on around the place with people panic-buying toilet paper and the like, I thought I’d share my views on having a stockpile of food and non-perishables around the house. I’ve had a stockpile for the last 2 decades and I find it a really useful and economical way to run my household.
Going back 20 or so years, (in the time before Aldi), I started building a supply of food and other things when things were on special. I was living on a single parents pension of around 18K/year with 4 small boys to feed, so money was incredibly tight. Over the course of a year or so, I gradually built up the supplies in my pantry so that in the end, I was pretty much buying as much as I could when something was on special.
In other words, we were eating most of our food at a discount. When baked beans, for example, were half price, I’d buy 10 or 20 of them, depending on how much leeway was in that week’s budget. Then we’d gradually eat them down until the next time when they were on sale, when I’d buy the same amount again.
Short-term, this was a more expensive way to run the household, but I’ve rarely been a short-term thinker. Over the course of a year, I’d easily save a few hundred dollars on meat, groceries, pet food and cleaning products. I was so poor that a few hundred dollars made a HUGE difference to our quality of life. The stockpile was worth doing.
When Aldi came to our neighbourhood, it was different. They had no ‘specials’ as such, but their prices were so much lower that I gladly started shopping with them.
And I still kept a stockpile. Why?
I realised that liked having reserves of food and other staples around. I liked not having to run to the shops every time I ran out of an ingredient, because I almost always had a replacement in the back cupboard. It gave me a sense of security and comfort in the fact that if something unexpected happened, I knew I could look after my boys and that we wouldn’t have to go shopping if people were out there acting crazy.
When ‘The Walking Dead’ came along, I christened my stockpile ‘The Zombie Apocalypse Cupboard’ and that’s its name today. Hearing the supermarkets run on a “just in time” policy of stocking their shelves cemented the idea that having a small stash of necessities wasn’t a bad idea.
So, seeing as I’m a bit of a prepper, how has the Jones household been acting in this time of Coronavirus?
I’ve so far been ahead of the wave. I’m a teacher and sooner or later it appears that Australia will have to close the schools down. The only question is when. I fully expect to have to self-isolate at some stage, given that I work in a school with nearly 2,500 kids and 200 teachers. That’s a lot of bodies that the virus would love to inhabit! Given all of that, it made sense to me to get ahead of the game and make sure that we had everything we’d need if we couldn’t leave our house for a while.
Years ago I read an article about the people of Sarajevo when they were caught in the middle of a war zone. It included a list of all the things they most prized. The number one item? Toilet paper, closely followed by matches and perfume. I’ve never forgotten that, so the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard has a dedicated shelf to the old bog rolls. Back in early February, when stories started to surface about this new virus but it was long before any panic-buying, I quietly stocked up on loo paper.
Then, in the next week or two, I bought a few extra tinned and packaged goods. Things like tuna, chickpeas, pineapple chunks (for pizza) and paracetamol. Grain-free dry dog food and the raw meat patties I feed Poppy, Jeff and Scout were also on the list. Dishwasher tablets, aluminium foil and baking paper came soon after that.
By the time I noticed toilet paper shelves were starting to empty pretty rapidly, I was feeling like our food situation was ok. But what would I do with my time if I had to self-isolate for at least 2 weeks? Remote -teaching my students would take up a bit of time. But there’d still be extra hours to fill…
Reading is my #1 passion. I have at least 15 books piled up beside my bed and a huge number waiting to be read on my kindle app. I have Netflix and Foxtel, so the tv viewing and book reading situations will be fine. But what about other things?
While everyone in the last week has been going crazy in the supermarkets, I’ve been at Spotlight quietly buying quilting supplies and at Bunnings buying fence paint for my new front fence, along with decking oil and potting mix.
Stockpiling doesn’t have to be just about the food. I’ve brought the paint buying forward a month or so, but now it’s done.
Though it hasn’t been all fun and games.
Two days ago, David26 and I went to Costco. It was a Tuesday morning, 10 minutes before opening time. David26 was worried about his girlfriend Izzy’s family and wanted to buy a few staples for them. Against my better judgement I agreed to take him.
The premier of Victoria had issued a state of emergency the day before. S**t was starting to get REAL.
It was incredible. When we arrived, there were easily 1,000 people ahead of us in the queue. It snaked around the carpark. David26 and I looked at each other.
“Well, we’re here now,” I said. “We probably won’t be able to get toilet paper for them, but we can get other things. And while we’re here, we need a 3L bottle of milk and I could always top up the dogs’ grain-free food. Then, if we’re isolating ourselves at home, the dogs’ll definitely be ok.”
It took us 25 minutes to even get to the front door. By the time we got there the signs were up saying ‘NO MORE TOILET PAPER.” By the time we reached the front of the queue, it was almost twice as long as when we got there.
Mini road-rage spats, with honking horns, were happening in the car park. Just as we reached the front, a police van quietly drove through and parked on the corner, clearly to keep an eye on things. Anyone trying to push into the queue was quickly told where to go… and by that I mean down to the end of the queue, not to go straight to hell!!!
Once we were inside, those massive Costco trolleys were racing around in all directions. People with a wild look in their eyes were grabbing everything they could lay their hands on. There was a limit rule of 2 cans of Glen-20 per membership, but at the cash registers I saw quite a few people who, like David26 and I, had come in a pair, trying to argue that they should be able to take 4 cans. No one got away with it though.
As we were waiting to pay, I whispered to David26, “If this is what it’s like on a Tuesday, imagine what the end of the week will be like if the news doesn’t get better? Not sure I’d want to be here then.”
So, what with my normal preparedness and yesterday’s Costco run, I guess I’ve seen both sides. So which is best?
If you’re an adrenaline junkie who likes to pit themselves against the odds, then yes! Leave everything till the last minute and go out and take your chances.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a sin to be prepared. You don’t want to be THAT guy who has 4,000 rolls of toilet paper lining his garage, but I think it makes sense to have a place set aside for things that you regularly eat/use as a back-up. When things are going wrong, the fewer people who are out on the streets competing for things, the better.
If any (or all of us) gets the virus and feels sick, it’s a comfort to know that we have everything we need to look after ourselves well within reach. By having the Zombie Apocalypse cupboard, we’ve eliminated that anxiety from our lives. If Tom28 has to come home if he has no work and can’t pay his rent, there’s food enough to cover him.
Having a stockpile of the basics eliminates that awful fear of not being able to provide for my family. Twenty-two years ago when I left my husband, I had $60 in cash, 4 small boys and no job. I did a Scarlet O’Hara and vowed that, as God is my witness, these boys will not suffer for what I’ve done. I would provide for them, no matter what.
Having a stockpile is, for me, an essential cushion against misfortune. Or a pandemic. So if you don’t have one at the moment, how do you build one up?
DON’T do what all the frenzied shoppers at Costco are doing. Going by the overloaded trolleys we saw, there are going to be lots of people with a massive credit card bill to pay in the next month. Obviously in this time of Coronavirus, buy what you need to get you through, but as for a stockpile for the future?
Do what I did when I was young and poor. Do it gradually.
Buy extra of the things that you’ll eat when they’re on special. If money is tight, buy an extra one. If you have a few more dollars free, buy multiples. Store them in a line in your pantry/zombie apocalypse cupboard. This is so you can keep track of use-by dates.
If you happen to buy more of a particular item before you’ve used up everything in that particular item in your stockpile, PUT THE NEW CANS/PACKETS AT THE BACK AND MOVE THE OLDER THINGS TO THE FRONT.
This is called rotating your stock. It may not be a sin to have a stockpile but it’s certainly a very bad thing to waste time, money and shelf space on food that you have to throw out because you didn’t use it in a timely fashion.
I’ve read that some people mark their stockpile items with a permanent marker of the date they bought them. Me? Nah. But if that idea floats your boat, go for it.
Over time, as various items come on sale or you have a few extra dollars and can buy a few extra things, your stockpile will build up. It’s a beautiful thing.
Only buy what you and your family like to eat and make sure you rotate your stock. This way, there’s no waste and you always have stores available in case something unexpected happens. It’s the most immediate way to provide a safety net for the ones you love. Having a paid-off house comes second.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on stockpiling. I’m proud to say that my two boys who are living on their own also saw which way the wind was blowing and stocked up on a few non-perishables before the supermarkets got crazy.
I normally don’t ask for comments, but I’m curious as to what you all think. I’ve laid out my history and why I’ve always had a store of food and such in the cupboards. Are you like me? Or do you have another way of navigating the world?
Around 3 days ago I wrote about my son, Ryan24, and a conversation we had in the ER with a nurse when we were in there tending to his burned foot. The foot was damaged more deeply than initially thought and although he’s home for the weekend, he’ll need a couple of skin grafts.
The pain he’s constantly in is strong. Even after 9 days after it happened, on a scale of 1 – 10 his level is a 6 on the strong pain killers and a 9 when they wear off. Yet he doesn’t complain. He hasn’t asked to go back to the ER for stronger stuff. He’s told off David26 and me when we offer to help him with things, saying, “Leave me my independence!”
He’s displaying grit. But where does it come from? Are you born with it or is it something that is learned over time? And how can this help us along the road to financial freedom?
The two of us have talked more about pain in the last few days than we have in his entire lifetime. He’s very articulate about it, which I guess is hardly surprising, given the situation. On Friday morning, a couple of hours after standing beside his bed watching him undergo the most pain I’ve ever seen a human being experience when his bandage was being replaced after a debridement procedure the night before, he explained what intense pain is like.
“Mostly pain is easy to deal with because you can do something to ease it, like moving in a different way or something. But this is like having my foot dipped in molten lava and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. You have a pain level you know is unbearable, but up till then, you can deal with it. But when it goes a level about that, and then a level above that… and then keeps on going, there are only two things that can help you. Tears and mental gymnastics.”
(The bold emphasis is mine.)
Ryan24 is a gamer from way back. He’s been playing on consoles and computers since he was a wee tacker. He’s undergone more quests and challenges than you’ve had hot dinners. He’s used to being confronted with a danger, a problem or a dilemma and then working his way through it logically. According to his friends, he’s a good man to have on the team because he stays level-headed in a crisis and keeps the bigger picture in mind. He also has amazing map-reading skills, but that’s beside the point for this post.
This is a financial independence blog, but like the post I linked to earlier, it strikes me that Rya24 is exhibiting many of the traits that lead to success with handling money.
Like so many people who are appalled when they realise how deeply they’ve dug themselves into debt, he’s in a crisis situation. Some people promptly put their heads back into the sand and refuse to deal with the problem they’ve created for themselves. Others choose to take a clear look at their situation and start taking steps to gain relief from it.
Ryan24 is choosing to take the long view of his problem. He knows that this won’t last forever and the best thing he can do now is to listen to the experts and do everything he can to move through this, no matter how painful it may be in the short-term. His foot hurts less when he elevates it, but he chooses to lower it, endure the pain and move around every hour or so, because it’ll help his recovery further down the track if there’s more blood flow to the area.
Similarly, someone enduring the pain of financial insecurity, (which I can personally attest to being a definite mental pain), can choose to also take the long-term view. When you keep the thought and belief that this willnot last forever if I make some changes firmly in the forefront of your mind, it makes it easier to make the decisions and sacrifices you need to get out of the hole easier and more likely to be made.
The “mental gymnastics” that Ryan24 alluded to are very much a gamer thing, but anyone can harness them. He’s giving himself challenges to distract himself, such as single-handedly moving his desktop computer box from his room to the man cave, so he could use his computer with the tv as a screen and be able to elevate his foot on the ottoman, as pictured. He’s wrapped all his Christmas presents, sitting on the floor so his foot is on the same level as the rest of him. Yesterday he had the tv playing clip upon clip of some American painter teaching people how to paint landscapes. He wasn’t watching it, but when I asked why he had it on he replied, “Because his voice is so calming.”
Just like Ryan24, someone working their way out of a financial problem can use distractions and challenges to help them along the way. When I was spending all those years raising 4 children on my own and doggedly digging my way out from under the mortgage, I used to do things like see how many days I could stay out of the supermarket, using things I already had in the pantry and fridge to feed us. If you stay out of the shops you can’t be tempted to buy extra things you don’t need, right?
When I got a 9 month contract at my school, I bought a new-to-us car and vowed I’d pay off the 20K loan by the end of the contract, just in case I was out of work after it ran out. It was a stretch, but I did it. I felt like I was super victorious every time I could scrape together an extra few dollars each fortnight to throw at the debt. Meeting challenges makes you feel good. If you feel good you’ll keep on until you hit that goal. I used this tactic a LOT to keep me on the track to providing security for my boys.
That Bob Ross ploy by Ryan24 to distract himself? Costs him nothing. Yet it provides a partial solution to his problem of being overwhelmed by strong emotions when the pain hits. No one wants a panic attack! For the rest of us, there are distractions all around that we can use to take our minds off what we’re being “deprived” of as we work our way out of financial insecurity towards financial independence.
Entertainment and fun doesn’t have to cost the earth. What I found useful was to rejig some activities to enable me to still have fun but not sabotage my over-arching financial goals. For instance, when I was undergoing my 18-month stint of paying for bridging finance on my current house at 74% of my take-home pay, I had to cut my expenses to nothing. I didn’t go out very often, but I took out an $18/month Netflix subscription as my entertainment. Worked a treat! When I wanted to see the girls, I invited them to a potluck at my place instead of us meeting at a restaurant. This has become a regular thing each holidays.
Another “mental gymnastic” that I’m pretty sure Ryan24 is doing is to see how long he can stretch out the time before he takes more pain killers. This is an easily do-able tactic for the financially challenged person. How long can you go before you buy that item you really want? Can you stretch out the use of whatever-it-is before replacing it? Can you keep going for another day/week/month at that side-hustle before you pack it in? How long can you go??
Any of these challenges to stretch things out is bound to keep more money in your pocket that you can throw at your situation to make progress. If your financial goal is to put together some savings in the bank, seeing that account total rise steadily and adding to it becomes a game. It becomes addictive, almost. Seeing that debt total fall, at first slowly, then faster and faster as the amount gets smaller and the principal being paid off gets bigger is exciting. You start to LOOK for ways to avoid spending so you can see that total fall even faster. It’s fun.
Now, I’m in no way advocating that the best way to develop grit is to spill boiling hot coffee on your foot. Ryan24 assures me very eloquently that it isn’t much fun. But there are traits that we all develop from areas far outside the financial sphere that we can harness and use to work towards our goals of financial security and freedom.
Maybe a slight gaming addiction is working out to be a good thing after all?