Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: The ‘why’ of FI. (Page 1 of 13)

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:

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?

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.  

Little Adventures #7: The Archibald Prize. Nov 2021.

One thing the Little Adventures thing has taught me – don’t leave it too late in the month to go off and do/see something new. We were coming out of lockdown in late October, so I bided my time, thinking I’d sneak October’s Little Adventure in just as things were opening up again. But then Jeffrey put his back out. As I was getting out of the car at the vet’s, I turned to speak to him and I put MY back out. We both hobbled in together and I had to ask a vet nurse to lift him back into the car when it was time to go home. Thank goodness Ryan26 is a remedial masseuse! It took a week for my back to get better and by then November had well and truly rolled around.

Monday morning was a good one. I was sitting on the couch with a coffee, little woofs asleep beside me, when 2 ads came up on Facebook. I know, normally it’s just annoying when that happens, but one ad was for a play the local council was supporting… (ticket price was free – my favourite price, so I snapped one up) … and the other one was for a gallery in Sale, which was showing the Archibald Prize paintings.

The Archibald Prize is a portrait competition that has been going for 100 years. The subjects are preferred to be notable Australians in some way and have had to have had at least one in-person sitting with the artist. It’s WAY famous.

Sale is MILES away. It’s buried deep in the Gippsland countryside and it’d take 2.5 hours to drive there. I know because I googled it. But… what if I went to see the exhibition on a weekday, just because I can? Also, the tickets are $17, so that’s definitely affordable.

Because of covid, they’re limiting the number of people who can go into the gallery at any one time, so I had to scroll through a few days to find a time that would work. So Thursday morning at 11:45 it was.

I left with plenty of time to get there, which was just as well. If I ever see another sign saying “Road Works – detour” I won’t be responsible for the consequences. Got there with seconds to spare!

The following photos are the portraits that I particularly liked. Some have the info card in the same frame, others don’t. There’s interesting stuff on those cards – well worth zooming in to see what they say. 🙂

The first thing I saw when I walked into the entrance foyer was a school group. How many times have I followed a school group around the National Gallery in St Kilda Road? But one thing I know from having done this for so long… if you discreetly attach yourself to the group, the guides tell you a lot more about the paintings than you’d otherwise know.

I loved the shirt on this guy and I liked the story behind the painting, too.

This was the first painting I saw and I loved it. The man gently protecting and nurturing his inner creative person is so great.

It’s not just the fact that we have the same hairdo! I like that this is a reflection from her window – see the bottom left corner?

This is the card that goes with the painting at the top of this post. It was the winner of the whole competition. Honestly… not one I would’ve picked, but I guess the symbolism of it being of a 100-year-old man and the competition was also in its 100th year was hard to beat.

This portrait of Kate Ceberano was right next to the winner. This painting won the Packing Room Prize. This is when the people who unpack all of the paintings as they arrive vote as to which one they like the best. It seems like a bit of a poisoned chalice – to date, no one who has won the Packing Room prize has gone on to win the Archibald.

I think it’s stunning.

This portrait of Rachel Griffiths is the size of an iPad. It was painted using a brush with only one bristle. I can’t imagine how long it would’ve taken to finish this painting with so much detail in it.

I liked this one because her face is so interesting. I could easily imagine her wearing a medieval bonnet or something. There’s something timeless about her face.

I absolutely loved this one. The sea was incredible, as was the story behind it. Over the past year, who hasn’t had moments when they’ve wanted to wrap themselves up in their favourite blanket – or quilt – and take a break? I also like how, if you look past the tumultuous water to the right, you can see that things will eventually become calm again.

How could I not like this one, considering I’m reading my 115th book of the year?

Such a brave young woman.

The play of light from the fire was extraordinary. The more I looked at this, the more was revealed.

This was the portrait I chose as my “people’s choice” award… though, thinking back… if I had my time over I might’ve gone with the sea one. But even so, it’s a wonderful painting. The light! It almost glows.

How cleverly is this done? So muted, yet so perfect?

And finally, this one made me laugh.

Then in the gallery just outside where the Archibald exhibition was, I saw this one. Oh My God! I LOVE it. In real life, it’s much darker than this. You could look at it all day and see new things emerging. I’ve put this here so I don’t forget.

After I’d finished, I bought some lunch from the adjoining café and took it outside to eat by the river. There were too many people without masks inside as they were eating and drinking. It might be ok for the Gippslanders, but it was a little bit much for this Melbournian to see without feeling weird.

Then, on the way home I went to a nursery and bought a couple of plants and a terracotta pot for the front yard, then popped into a quilting shop at Rosedale and bought a couple of things. We’ve been asked to spend our money in the regional areas so I did my bit. Then home I went!

Ryan26 had a couple of friends around so he cooked dinner and made strawberry daiquiris – all in all, not a bad day!

Who knows? Maybe because I missed October I should go on another Little Adventure this month, just to even things up? We’ll see…

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call a fat psychic?

A four-chin teller. 

Frugal Friday: Entertain yourself with what you have at home.

Let’s be honest. I’ll bet we all have things tucked away in cupboards or on shelves that we bought, intending to use, but have somehow never seen the light of day again. Some would be practical, some for hobbies or for trips we’ve planned but never taken, but the end result is the same. We’ve spent money on things that are simply taking up space, both physically and in our heads.

The thing is – it’s not wasted money if you actually USE the thing you bought.

Me? I’m a quilter. I don’t know how to sew, even though I use a sewing machine. Quilting is the only thing I do. And yeah, over the years I’ve amassed quite the stash of fabric. Even when I took a 5-year break from the hobby because I was spending every spare second selling thermomixes, I kept the bins and boxes full of colours. I had an inkling that one day I’d come back to it.

Mix the “not wasted money if you use it” and the “I’ll come back to this hobby” ideas and for the last 18 months I’ve been making a concerted effort to use what’s actually in the house, rather than racing off to buy shiny and new items.

During Melbourne’s world-breaking lockdown, online shopping has been a godsend for most things, but honestly… some things you have to actually see for yourself in person. For me, fabric is one of these. So I decided to entertain myself in lockdown by restricting myself to only using the fabric that I have right here. Some I’ve had for over a decade!

Time to use it.

Some of these are gifts, some are for around the house and others are baby quilts, like the one pictured here, that I’ve put aside for the boys and myself to give as gifts when people we know and love start reproducing.

The boys are in their mid to late twenties so this time is definitely coming.

In fact, this baby quilt was made for a friend of Tom29’s. A little girl named Ava uses this quilt every single day. I was stoked when Tom29’s friend told him this. We quilters don’t make these things to be put away in a cupboard. We want them to be used and loved and wrapped around the people we care for.

These blocks were actually all sewn up and all they needed was to be assembled and sewn together. They were sitting in a box for 11 years, all because I was too scared I’d make a mistake and ruin them. I’m sitting on it right now – I decided to sew them together as a couch quilt. The Little Woofs love to sleep on the couch next to their Mum.

All from the stash. I’m running low on purple – you’ll notice there are 2 triangles with purple flowers. But I still managed to get the quilt top done without online shopping. Winning!

This one is a queen-sized monster. Yellows and greys.

Another gift for a friend. I’ve known her for over 40 years – thought it was time I made her a quilt… She has a cat, so I made sure there was cat fabric on it. I saw this pattern on a Youtube clip, so I gave it a whirl.

So many patterns, so little time.

Here’s another little baby quilt. The pattern was designed by Ryan26 for his older brother. David28 wants a queen-sized quilt so we tested out the pattern first. The queen-sized quilt will NOT be part of the stash challenge. He wants only solids for it and I don’t have the correct colours, so I’ve ordered them online. Eclectic Mumma has the best range of Moda solids I’ve found.

And I’m working on a huge quilt using crumbs and strings, some only 1/2 inch wide, for my parents. It’s a combined Christmas and birthday gift, which is fair enough, as it’ll take me way more than 40 hours to put this all together. I’m definitely using up lots of little scraps here, but after an afternoon of high concentration, I totter out feeling a bit discombobulated. When it’s finished I’ll share it on a future ‘Frugal Friday’ post.

I’m using up what’s here in the house and being vastly entertained at the same time. My brain’s hard at work designing and making hundreds of decisions with colour placement, I’m grooving to Mum’s Boppin’ Bangers on Spotify and my afternoons slip by with much fun, no money spent and a feeling of accomplishment at the end of each day.

Why not do as I did and drag those unused items from your cupboards and start using them? After all, you bought them for a reason. If they genuinely don’t interest you anymore, flog them off on Marketplace or give them away, but if you see them and smile, then get your money’s worth from them!

After making all of these quilts from fabric that I already had at home, I still have bucketloads of fabric here. So many hours of entertainment! I feel very lucky.

As I said above, it’s only a waste of money if you don’t USE what you have.

So use it.

Dad jokes of the day:

What did the grape do when he got stepped on? He let out a little wine. 

I wouldn’t buy anything with velcro. It’s a total rip-off.

A challenge or three adds spice to retirement!

Cover of novel.

Retirement certainly has its perks! I spent most of yesterday devouring this book. Last year my oldest son gave me Richard Osman’s first novel, The Thursday Murder Club for Christmas and I absolutely loved it. It’s so warm and funny and the writing is absolutely wonderful. That wry British humour with such wonderfully fresh and quirky characters. It’s truly one of those books that you read and never forget.

So when the sequel was released I was onto it! As part of my ‘earn my rates back by reading’ challenge, (more on this later), I put a hold on it at my local library. I was number 15 in the queue. I resigned myself to waiting until the new year to get my hands on it, but to my surprise, it was suddenly my turn. I’m not sure if it was because Melbourne was still in lockdown so people had more time on their hands to read, or if it was so good that people were galloping through it.

Anyway, now I’m sure it was the second one. I read it all in a day. Once I started, I didn’t want to leave this world that Richard Osman created. These two books have the same heart-warming feeling that the tv show Ted Lasso has, only with more corpses scattered around. Both The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice. are Thumping Good Reads – it’s not often I find myself Laughing Out Loud when reading, but this one got me waking up the little woofs a few times. 🙂

Actually, this reading challenge I’ve set up for myself has opened up a lot of really good books that I probably wouldn’t have stumbled across before. The local council has access to a lot more library books than the secondary school library that I was using before, with many more librarians who are happy to recommend things. According to my Goodreads page, I’ve just finished my 111th book for the year, and I have 2 more on the go.

If you glance across at the ‘Retirement Reading Quest’ on the right-hand side of this blog, you’ll see that I’ve reached roughly the same target that I had at the beginning of the 2021 challenge this year.

Basically, my council rates for 2021 were $1,800. I decided to ‘earn’ back that money by borrowing books from my local library and keeping a tally of how much money these books were worth. It helps that I’m a fast reader who likes a challenge and, now that I’ve retired, have the time to indulge myself in this. By August I’d reached the target. That’s when my rates bill for 2022 came in…

Of course, the bill was higher. $2,100, plus a little over $100 for dog registrations. I decided to keep the challenge rolling on, plus kick in the dog rego as well – why not? A stretch target is a good target – within reason.

So 2 months on, I’ve already knocked over the extra $300, so I’m on track to successfully knock over 2022’s rates challenge. I’ve slowed down with the library borrowing though. I have a teetering pile of books beside my bed that I absolutely have to tackle – there are books in there that I’ve wanted to read all year but haven’t, due to the challenge.

Tomorrow at 6PM retail shops open up again in Melbourne. The longest lockdown in the world is finally coming to a close. I want to go to Bunnings and get some terracotta pots and some flowers for the front verandah for my other challenge – Operation Beautify, which I wrote about a couple of posts ago. I also have to quickly decide where I’m going to go for October’s Little Adventure – I’m definitely running out of month for this one!

I’m really enjoying chipping away at these self-set challenges. In retirement, especially if you couple it with being in lockdown, it’s all too easy for the days to slip steadily past without you really noticing. Having these defined targets in a few different areas means that I can still get that feeling of achievement when completing a task that I used to get from finishing things a work. For example, I used to feel a huge sense of achievement (and relief) when I finished marking a pile of essays or grammar tests. It was DONE!!! Now, I get the same feeling when I come back from a Little Adventure, or I finish another book and change my figures on the table on this blog.

And honestly, the quality of my life is so much better. Marking grammar tests (ugh) and essays (yuck) compared to exploring new places, making my home even prettier or reading a fabulous novel?

There’s no comparison, yet I still get the lovely feeling of being productive that I enjoy so much.

Dad Jokes of the day:

An opinion without 3.14 is an onion.
You'll understand.
Visual joke. Sorry.

A recommended financial reading list.

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’m open to suggestions.

Dad joke of the day:

What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

Nacho Cheese.

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