Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 4)

Wednesday W’s #14.

Little white dog disappearing into a fluffy rug.
He looks miserable.

What’s top of my mind: The death of my fridge.

On Sunday night, as I pulled out some chicken schnitzels from the freezer for a quick fakeaway dinner, they felt a little soft.

“Has someone opened the freezer?” I asked. Both boys shook their heads, so I thought that maybe I was the doofus who’d left the door ajar. In the middle of the night I woke with the question, “What if the fridge has died?” running through my head. Sure enough, the next morning brought a silent fridge and soggy packages in the freezer.

It’s never a convenient moment to lose your fridge.

Where I’ve been: scurrying from the kitchen to the laundry.

Fortunately I have the full-sized freezer from the old house in the laundry. It’s pretty full, but there were enough nooks and crannies left to be able to fill them with lots of things from the kitchen freezer.

Anything else, I put in an esky or in the freezer drawers with a bag of ice.

Where I’m going: to Evan25’s show at the Comedy Festival.

Yay! The boys are doing ‘Chumsville’ gain, so on Saturday night I’m bringing a couple of friends to see them do what they do best. Make people laugh, that is. 🙂

What I’m watching: The front window.

The new fridge is due to arrive in 20 minutes!!!!

What I’ve been reading: Inside the Bitcoin bust that took down the Web’s biggest child abuse site.

“They thought their payments were untraceable. They couldn’t have been more wrong. The untold story of the case that shredded the myth of Bitcoin’s anonymity.”

This is a long article but it’s well worth the read. I really enjoyed it.

What I’m listening to: Dan Snow’s History Hit.

This is a new-to-me podcast, where each episode is a look at an interesting thing that has happened in the past. They’re not tied to any particular portion of history, so the episodes leap around time all over the place. The episodes are also in 30 minute (or so) lengths, so they’re great for a commute.

What I’m eating: Things that we salvaged from the fridge and freezer.

Last night’s dinner was mushroom risotto. Instead of parmesan, I used a piece of tasty cheese. I kept the parmesan cheese in the esky in the ice. There was a punnet of mushrooms that wouldn’t be great after another night without cooling, so I was pleased to use them up.

I was also glad I used up the tasty cheese, but going forward? Parmesan is definitely better.

Ryan27 cooked up a heap of dim sims for lunch. They were basically still frozen when I transferred them to the back freezer, but to be on the safe side, I told him that they needed using up. He was happy to oblige. I had the last frozen pie.

Who needs a good slap: The fridge repair company.

I can’t prove that they were planning to rip me off, but their quote certainly seemed suss. It turned out to be more viable to just get a new fridge.

What I’m planning: to make bagels.

Tom30 loves bagels. I’ve only ever made them once, YEARS ago. I used a thermomix recipe and they were delicious. I might give them another go. He’ll be delighted.

What has made me smile: Having my untrammelled days back.

Even though I’m enjoying the challenge of paying for David28’s wedding – and now the new fridge, I guess – by working, there’s a special beauty in the days where no one dictates how I spend my time but I.

I’m enjoying these school holidays.

Dad joke of the day:

Frugal Friday: Frugality is a lens through which to view your choices.

Frugal. Such a funny word. It seems to have a slightly different connotation to everyone. To me, it’s primarily a disinclination to waste things that I’ve put my hard-earned time, energy and money into. Frugality, to me, isn’t just a money thing. It’s also a refusal to squander my time and focus on things that won’t bring me pleasure and satisfaction.

As I was taking this shot, it occurred to me that this photo is full of frugal elements.

First off: look at those plump Bellotti beans! Whoever grew and harvested them certainly knew what she was doing! But why grow them at all? I’ll go into that in a minute.

Then there’s the red bowl. I bought around six of them when the boys were small, from Ikea. I’ve lost a couple of them along the way, but the rest of them are still going strong. They’d be well over 20 years old by now. There are plenty of shiny new bowls in the world, both in Ikea and elsewhere, but why ditch them when they still do the job? Plus they’re a small part of the history of our family.

The library book. Yes, I’m still reading this novel, though I’ll finish it by the end of the day. When I heard that it was being released I was so excited and I could’ve easily just bought a copy and downloaded it to my iPad via the (free) Kindle app, but instead I waited in line for it from the library. Delayed gratification makes you stronger.

The table with the Queen Anne legs in the background used to belong to my dear friend Scott. When he and his partner moved to England over a decade ago, we took a few things off their hands for a bargain-basement price. (Thanks Scott and Mark!) I have absolutely no plans to upgrade – I love that table and so why would I get rid of it?

But getting back to the question of why I’d choose to devote time, energy and space in the garden to grow a few handfuls of dried beans…

See this garden? It has 5 wicking beds in it, metres upon metres of brick paving and a massive verandah roof on the lower half. If I grew veggies covering every square inch of this space from now until I was 87, I wouldn’t make back the money I’ve spent on this space.

Now this wasn’t a surprise. I knew that this would be the case going in. So why did I – the woman called a tightarse by her co-workers (and, to be fair, herself) – choose to do this?

Because to me, frugality isn’t simply being cheap and niggardly with money.

Frugality to me is a choice to recognise the fact that money is a finite resource; so it’s smart for us to utilise that resource in the most effective ways we can to enhance our lives.

With regard to the garden, this meant that I front-loaded the expenses so that for the next 30 years I can reap enjoyment and fulfilment from it. To my mind, that’s a helluva deal.

Because yes – I LOVE getting something for nothing. Those beans? They’re harvested from beans that I grew last year. Free food – my favourite flavour. I get a kick out of growing things from seed, then saving seeds or cuttings from next year’s crops. There’s a sense of continuity that I really enjoy.

Am I saving money by doing this? The short answer is yes, of course. But not very much. The next time you’re in the supermarket, have a look at what a pack of dried beans cost. Less than a dollar.

But there’s something so darned satisfying when you have a bowlful of beans that you’ve sowed, watered, let dry and then harvested. The sound they make as they fall back into the bowl and the feel of them as they run through your fingers. I have more of them still growing, but once they’re all dried I’ll probably cook them up in the slow cooker and freeze them into 250g lots. That’s how many cooked beans are actually in a 400g tin.

Every time I reach into the freezer to grab a bag of these babies, I’ll be smiling. It makes me happy to grow some of our food. It makes me happy not to have to race off to the supermarket if I need a tin of beans. It also makes me happy to utilise some of the land on my block for growing food.

Frugality is gaining joy from the tiniest things in life, such as a handful of beans. Or a pile of spuds.

This sinkful of spuds came from potatoes I planted over 3 or 4 years ago. Every year they keep producing food for us. I didn’t intend for this to happen – I just happened to be in Aldi, saw some seed potatoes and threw them at the bottom of one of the new wicking beds.

Yet here they are – the gift that keeps on giving. In the beginning, I visualised that we’d get a few meals’ worth of spuds from those seed potatoes, but there have been many more than that. Free food. Bargain. I can put the money that I would’ve used to buy a bag of potatoes towards something else.

Like Antarctica. Fingers crossed, I’ll be going in December. Definitely not a frugal destination… but wow. Icebergs. Penguins. That’s definitely adding value to my life!

Frugality is also probably why I like quilting.

Quilting can be a frugal(ish) way to pass the time, or it can be hellishly expensive. When you shop for fabric at a ‘proper’ quilting shop, the prices START at $20+ a metre for cotton. Batting (the warm stuff in the middle) isn’t exactly cheap either. If a quilter chooses to buy new fabric for every quilt they make, the costs mount up considerably.

I know – one of the last quilts I finished was made from designer fabrics. It was queen-sized and it was just a tad exxy. But aside from the fact that my son Ryan27 designed it and then I made it – HUGE satisfaction, creativity and engagement right there! – I have lots of green, yellow and mustard scraps that I’ll be using in quilts for years to come.

How do I know this? Because at heart, I’m a scrap quilter. No hardly any scrap is too small for me to throw away.

I’m currently working on a quilt for a friend of mine who recently lost her Mum. Now, this quilt is the ultimate in frugality! It’s a ‘quilt as you go’, which means that instead of using a huge piece of batting, I’m using remnants left over from previous quilts. You sew directly onto the remnants, then join them all together to make the quilt. Zero waste. This makes me happy. Some of the batting I’m using is from quilts I made over a decade ago.

The money that Past Frogdancer spent is not being wasted. That’s important to me. For many years, Past Frogdancer had very little money to throw around. To be able to respect that and to use what she bought is pleasing to me.

And look at the fabric that will be in the centre of each square. It’s golfball fabric that I bought nearly 15 years ago to make Tom30’s first quilt. I also included it in the quilt I made for Mum and Dad this year – another scrappy quilt. Fabric doesn’t go off if it sits there for a while. The trick is to remember to keep using the material I’ve got, instead of buying All The Colours whenever I go shopping.

It’s funny, but when I’ve been using fabric for a long time, I get a kick out of using it again. I remember the quilt/s I’ve used it in before and it’s like seeing an old friend. It takes many, many hours to make a quilt. When I make a quilt from scraps, I’m getting extremely low-cost entertainment, while extending my creativity and productivity as well. This makes the frugal part of my brain almost purr with satisfaction.

With quilting, like the back garden, I front-loaded the costs and now, at my leisure, I can kick back and savour the things I’ve put in place.

Sounds a bit like someone working towards FI/RE, doesn’t it? Frugality and FI/RE have a lot in common, which is why so many naturally frugal people seem to quickly see the possibilities of the FI/RE concept. 

Working steadily with an over-arching goal in mind, such as the goal of financial freedom, requires frugality with both money and focus, as well as a big dollop of delayed gratification.

Frugality is a keen weapon when used intelligently. When we bring it together with other tactics such as harnessing the power of compounding; making the most from our jobs; maybe working a part-time job on the side; educating ourselves about finances and things like geoarbitrage… then we are unstoppable.

Use frugality as a lens through which to view your choices. Pour yourself into the things that will propel you further and add value and joy to your life. After all, we only have so much time, energy and money to give.

Save the bulk of your resources for the good stuff!

Dad joke of the day:


Safety in numbers.  

Frugal Friday: a stitch in time.

Last year I asked the boys to buy me socks for my birthday. I prefer to get gifts that I’ll use – not knick-knacks that just clutter the place up – so this was a way for them to get me something I really needed, as well as them being able to get out of the whole exercise pretty cheaply.

My youngest, Evan24, really came to the party with not one pair, but 10! At that stage he was still a student, we were in lockdown so he was pretty broke, so when I saw a hole appear in the toe of the rubber duckies pair, I decided that I wasn’t going to waste his money.

If I could, I was going to stretch the life out of these socks.

Ok, I’ve heard of darning socks, but seriously. Who on earth is going to take the time to do that? (Except if they were hand-knitted woollen socks which are precious… and that was all there was in the era when darning socks was a thing.) I decided to try something much faster and easier. I’m a very busy and important person, after all.

So I just used the sewing machine to sew a little slopey “U” shape around the hole. I popped them on and wore them.

Success! Obviously, if they were uncomfortable you’d throw them out. Life’s too short to have uncomfy feet. But so far, once my shoes are on I can’t even tell which sock has the nifty sewing on it.

This morning I took the rubber duckie socks out and yikes! The other sock had a hole in it.

Two minutes later, all fixed!

Since trying this with the first sock, I’ve done this with a few other socks and it’s worked a treat. Now, the only thing that’ll stop these bad boys from being worn forever is when they get a hole in the heel.

Such a quick and easy fix – unless you visit someone who doesn’t wear shoes in the house!

Dad Jokes of the Day:

What do you call a fake noodle? An Impasta. 

I just watched a program about beavers. It was the best dam program I’ve ever seen

“So are you working?”

In between lockdowns is a fantastic time to catch up with old friends.

Recently, I’ve had 3 separate high school reunions with women I haven’t seen for 40 years or so. Each reunion has been so much fun – it’s odd how our lives have been so different in the little details, but have still been the same(ish) in terms of the broad-brush-stroke events.

But something I found myself pondering after the first couple of meetings – how do you ask what people are doing without assuming that they have a job? Many people have their self-image tied in up what they do for a living, but what if, like me, they’ve retired?

In my age group it’s not terribly uncommon for women to have dropped back to part-time work or full retirement, especially if they’ve stayed married. Decades of those two wages makes a difference after a while!

We all know that the usual question when meeting anyone, either for the first time or after a large gap, is to ask, “So what do you do?” This implies that they have a job/career. Is there a different way to ask how they’re spending their days?

I decided to test-drive the question, “So, are you working?” Said with a smile… tone of voice is really important, of course. It seems a more neutral way of asking how they spend their time without the expectation of getting a job title in return.

If they’re working, you’ll get a “Yes, I’m a ………………” or something like,”Yes, I’m working 4 days a week as a …………….”

If they’re not, you’ll get a, “No, I’m retired… never worked… ” Whatever. The only risk I can see is that the person bursts into tears and says they just got laid off. That’d be awkward, but you run that risk anyway with the more usual question.

(Of course, it wouldn’t be so neutral if you added one word – imagine asking “So, are you STILL working?” OMG… can you imagine the expression on the other person’s face? )

So on my third reunion, I asked the question. I already knew what Robyn did for a living – we’d reconnected on BookFace and had had a long chat on Messenger – but I had no idea what Lisa was up to these days.

It worked really well. She smiled and told us that she worked 3 days a week as a district nurse, visiting Mums and young babies in high risk families. There were no weird looks and her reply led into a really interesting discussion about what she does in those three days, as well as how she spends the other 4 days a week.

We had a great talk. Robyn works fulltime as a teacher, Lisa part time and I’m retired, so we were spread along the whole line of possibilities. It was fun to compare the different lifestyles. We all chose the more traditional “caring” careers. Not sure if that’s a product of leaving school in the 1980’s as young, middle-class women or whether we’re just fantastically humanitarian people. We all enjoy/ed our careers though, regardless of the reasons why we entered them.

I know this isn’t a huge thing in the big scheme of life, but I found it an interesting thing to play with.

Has anyone else experimented with how to ask The Question?

My retirement speech? So how did it go?

The card the English faculty gave me. 🙂

Yesterday, the day of the Christmas function when all the people leaving the school give their speeches, was almost the perfect day. Today, for some unknown reason dictated to us by the state government, our employer, we have to go into work until midday. So as of midday today, Frogdancer Jones will be free to spend each day as she chooses. Wow.

But let me back-track a bit.

Wednesday was another day of meetings. The first 2 periods of the day were free, so I took the time to clear out the last of the things on my desk, including the desk drawer that I haven’t emptied since I moved onto this desk 17 years ago.

I felt like an archaeologist, working through the layers of artefacts at a burial site. I had 4 pairs of scissors in there. I don’t know why. 20c in a little paper bag, which was some long-ago change from a purchase at the canteen. Paper clips too numerous to count, lots of rubber bands which I took home with me, except for one very limp and exhausted looking one. I showed it to Adrian, saying, “I wonder how old this one is? It’s probably been here for the full 17 years!”

The best find was my ID cards. It wasn’t the complete set, but it showed me with long hair, short hair, fluorescently-dyed hair and they years when I shaved my head bald. (I did that in front of the whole school to help raise money for The World’s Greatest shave back in 2007. I loved the look so kept it going for well over a year.)

Then it was time for the Art meeting, which was really a lunch. Helen, who as well as being the head of department was also the woman who travelled with me to North Korea in 2018, ordered the most scrumptious lunch from a Thai restaurant. Every single dish was delicious.

Speaking of dishes, as a parting gift the Art dept/Helen gave me this beautiful serving dish. As I always say, if you want a great farewell gift that’s aesthetically pleasing, get a job in the Art department!

After lunch, washed down with a couple of glasses of bubbly, it was time for the English meeting. I didn’t bother taking my computer – I took Jenna’s quilt, a needle, thread and scissors and sat down to continue hand-sewing the binding. Persephone sat down next to me to have a quick chat, which was great because I was able to thank her for taking that long holiday 17 years ago, which is how I landed the initial contract to work at the school.

When she left, I took my quilt and a bowl of snakes – I love the green ones especially – over to the year 9 meeting and asked if I could sit with them. They had their computers open and were working on the first task for next year. Persuasive speeches. I sat doen, settled myself with my stitchery and asked Cath if I could do anything to help.

“No Frogdancer, that’s alright. You do you!”

I gave some suggestions and opinions a couple of times as I listened to them, but mostly I kept inching my way slowly around the perimeter of the quilt, feeling interested in the talk that was going on but feeling thankful all the same that this part of my life was coming to an end.

At 3 o’clock Sam came out of the room where the year 12 team had been meeting and came over to see what the year 9 team was doing.

“Don’t worry Sam,” I said, waving the needle merrily at him. “I’ve been here supervising for you, making sure they were working hard!”

The next day was Thursday. The day I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started work at the school. The staff Christmas function, where the speeches are made.

I LOVE public speaking. Just love it. Give me something to talk about and a spotlight to stand in and I’m a happy woman. Over the years I’ve seen many farewell speeches. Most fade into the mist of time, but some live on in the years afterwards, for both good and bad reasons.

I was determined that my speech would be good. I have my pride, after all.

The trouble is, I’m a bleeding-edge sort of teacher. I don’t meticulously plan out my speeches, just like I don’t meticulously plan out my lessons. My gift is spontaneity. And the gods of spontaneity never let me down.

Still, I started to give this speech a little bit of thought, especially after one of my English faculty colleagues tried to psych me out. After my speech on Monday, he said to me in front of a few others who I respect from the English department, “You know Frogdancer, your speech on Thursday could go one of two ways. You’ll either hit it out of the park or it’ll fall flat as a tack.”

Although inside I was thinking, “WTF?!? Why would you fucking say this to someone giving a speech you dic****d?”, while outside I was as cool as a cucumber, saying, “Yes, I agree with you. It’ll be interesting to see which one it is.”

I’m not the brightest person. I had no idea that it was a warning shot across the bow.

Two days later, on Wednesday night, as soon as I got home from work I started planning my speech. When I do this, I don’t write things down. Instead, I walk around and around, muttering to myself as I try out different stories and scenarios. As they become clear I slot each anecdote, joke and message into a clear, coherent pathway. Then I make dot points. It takes time, but as I mutter and pace, it all starts to emerge as a coherent whole.

Ryan25 heard me and came into the room, asking who I was talking to.

“The whole staff,” I said. “I’m writing my speech.”

“Oh”, he said. “Thought so. Have fun!” and he left me to it. He also cooked dinner so I’d be free to keep working on it. He’s a good lad.

As I walked and muttered, a gradual pattern emerged. I knew going in that I wanted to be funny, but also to have a middle section where I got serious. Then I’d end with a funny section, a bit like most of my lessons. Reel ’em in with humour, get your point across and then leave ’em laughing.

Gradually, a few ‘must haves’ emerged, so I grabbed some paper and jotted down dot points. Nothing more than that. I wanted to speak directly to my audience, not read to them. At around 9, the perfect ending to my speech came tumbling from my mouth.

“YES!” I cried. “I’m a genius!” The last dot point was made. I ran through it, muttering but standing still now because I knew that tomorrow I’d be standing behind a podium with microphones. It was all good. I knew that basic pattern of what I was going to say, I knew the stories I wanted to tell and the running jokes that went with them and I had a kick-arse ending.

The speeches I give have rhythm and pace. This one had running jokes weaving through and a clear thread. I expected a clear space to deliver it, like every other person in the 17 years of speeches I’d enjoyed.

I was ready.

But yeah. It’s late on Friday and to be quite honest… I’m a bit pissed. (In the Aussie meaning of inebriated: not the other meaning of being angry.)

Lets pick up this convo tomorrow. Lots to tell.

But this meme will give you an indication –

Someone tried to scuttle the speech. Not in a major way, but enough to try and derail my focus and make my speech fail. Seriously? Are we in grade 3???

Anyway, I’m tired. I’ll pick this up tomorrow. I’ll keep telling what happened on Thursday, but real terms – it’s Friday evening. I’m free!! I’m retired! But I still need to fill you in on the almost perfect day Thursday was – my send off from teaching.

I’ll pick this up tomorrow. It’s a good story so stick with me. 🙂

Book review: “Retirement Made Simple.”

Cover of Noel Whittaker's book "Retirement Made Simple."
Disclosure: Please note that I may benefit from purchases made through my affiliate links below, at no cost to you.

A little while ago Noel Whittaker, who is a member of a FB group I’m also in, wrote that he was releasing a new book in October – ‘Retirement Made Simple.‘ Perfect timing for me, of course. I ordered it, telling him that if it made me rethink my retirement plans I was going to be pretty mad!!

I’m a bit of a fan of his work. As some of you may recall, every Christmas for the last 5 years I’ve given a finance book to my sons and nieces. They’ve received TWO of Whittaker’s books – the first being the book that gives a broad education of the Australian financial scene – ‘Making Money Made Simple‘ and the one designed for young adults starting out – ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Wealth.’

This new book was bought just with ME in mind. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I really know how to pamper myself.

I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of every chapter, as I’ve seen some in the PF world do in their reviews. I think doing so is a disservice to the author. A review isn’t meant to be a summary; it’s meant to give an idea of the flavour of the book.

I will say that ‘Retirement Made Simple’ is a well laid out and comprehensive view of the things every Australian needs to know (and think about) as they’re either heading towards or are actually into the retirement stage.

It begins with the numbers – what people need to know about superannuation, pensions, investments, insurances… all of the things that underpin the financial bedrock of financial independence and security. After all, there’s no point in retiring if you find yourself eating cat food a few years later just to survive!

Once all that is dealt with, the later chapters move into how to make the most of the freedom of retirement. Health, activities, relationships, philosophies of living – all the things that people sometimes forget to consider before they pull the pin on working. In other words – the answers to “But what will you DO all day?” (Someone at work asked me that question only yesterday. I don’t think they know me very well!)

Mr Bean saying "Now I get it!"

The chapters are also peppered with case studies of the things being explored, which I think is an excellent idea. A few people are numbers people and so they’re happy with charts and graphs, but the rest of us can grasp a concept more readily if it’s presented in a story. Somehow, after reading the story, the chart or graph makes much more sense.

I’m a speed reader, so I read it over a couple of days. I learned a bit here and there and by the end of it I felt that I’d prepared both my financial and emotional worlds pretty well prior to taking the jump. Phew!

I have a friend at work who is a couple of years away from pulling the pin. He and his wife are both English teachers and are even more numeral-averse than I am, if you can believe that such a thing is possible. When I finished reading it I passed the book over to him.

I was almost sure that he’d start reading it and then put it aside. I wasn’t completely sure, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered giving it to him. But I felt that this book may have just come along at the right time for them to be ready for the information.

Yesterday he reminded me that he had the book, then when I asked if he’d been reading it he told me this:

“Last night I was washing the dishes and Ellen (his wife) was reading it aloud to me. The author has a very good way of making the information accessible to readers who don’t have a lot of financial knowledge. He’s making it easy for us to follow and understand. It’s really very good.”

That’s a ringing endorsement if ever I’ve heard one.

This stuff is important. The better we’re able to prepare for retirement, both financially and emotionally, the better our lives will be.

Making Retirement Simple‘ by Noel Whittaker. Check it out.

Knowledge is power.

Time’s ticking away.

Cavaliers sitting at the front door.
Poppy and Jeff watching me leave for work. Only 5 weeks to go!

Five weeks (and 1 day) of work left before I retire! It seems real and yet not, if you know what I mean.

I’m constantly being asked at work, “Counting down the days?” and yes, I suppose I am.

I’ve had people saying they’re specifically coming to the staff luncheon at the end of the year because they know my speech will be hilarious – oof, no pressure everyone! – and others saying that they’ll miss me next year. That’s nice of them to say, but we all know how quickly workplaces move on. Today’s superstar is barely remembered a month into next year. It’s all about the here and now.

One thing I’m kicking myself about.

Due to remote learning being hard on some of the kids, the year 7s didn’t have to write a full essay on their novel this year, just 3 body paragraphs. This means that I read my very last essay ever LAST YEAR!!!! This means that I read my very last essay ever and I didn’t even know it. ARGH!!!! That would have been a sweet, sweet feeling.

Hand made soap curing.
Work Christmas presents done.

I’ve made my very last Work Christmas presents. For the last couple of years I’ve made soap to give to people. This year I bought cornflower and calendula petals to make them look pretty. The soap takes 6 weeks to cure so it can be safely used, so it means that you have to be organised early. I’m really pleased with how these look.

Oh, and if you’re a work friend who’s reading this, just pretend to be surprised in the last week of term. 🙂

Brick path to the letterbox, next to the 'Orchard.'
Another little job ticked off the list!

I decided to bite the bullet and finish off the front yard. New guttering on the verandah, a new garden bed and brick path have all been put in. This means that, apart from the side fence that has to be replaced, the bones of the yard have been completed and now the pottering about bit – otherwise known as planting and gardening – are ready to be worked on next year when I have all the time in the world.

Like it says in the caption.
Front, curved garden bed.

I still have no clear idea what is going to be planted in this garden bed. All I know for sure is that I want it to be full of flowers to bring the bees to pollinate all the fruit trees. The dark fence behind it will be the perfect backdrop for splashes of colour.

Grown from seeds.

The other cheap entertainment I’ll have for myself is seriously learning how to grow food from seed. I’ve been doing it for years, but in a haphazard sort of way, so I’m looking forward to refining how I do it and being more consistent and productive.

There’s nothing so rewarding as harvesting food that you’ve grown yourself from seeds you’ve saved. Free food is my favourite flavour!

Black plastic pots - big ones - with pumpkin plants.
Pumpkins in pots in the orchard.

Speaking about growing food from saved seed, last year was the first time I successfully grew pumpkins. Never have pumpkins tasted better! I saved seed from the largest one and I’ve planted them in pots which I’ve popped in the new orchard. The idea is that while the grass underneath the mulch is slowly being killed off, the pumpkin plants can tumble over the sides of the pots and ramble all over the ground under the baby trees.

It’s an experiment. Hopefully, they’ll produce glorious pumpkins and I’ll be making use of all that spare ground. That’s the great thing about food gardening. There’s always a new experiment to be carried out to keep things interesting.

There are unexpected benefits to growing your own food. Last summer we had a tomato glut. I’ve never seen so many tomatoes in one garden in my life before. By the time summer ended I had packed away around 50 kilos in bags of chopped-up tomatoes in 400g lots in the freezers. Anytime a recipe called for a tin of tomatoes, I’d just defrost a bag. Along with other produce from the garden, our big freezer in the laundry and our smaller one in the kitchen was jam-packed full.

Then covid happened. Having all of that food saved meant that our visits to the shops were dramatically cut. I planned our meals around what we had to use up and now, in late spring, we have just 4 bags of tomatoes left. I’m so rapt. The utter convenience of having all of this on-site, along with the motivation of “if we grows it, we eats it!” meant that it was easier to simply throw a meal together from home, rather than get takeaway and risk getting the virus.

I’ve spent so much money on landscaping the yard to include the wicking vegetable beds that I’ll NEVER make my money back on grocery savings. But that wasn’t why I did it.

Old Lady Frogdancer’s ongoing grocery bills will be slightly smaller, yes. But she’ll also have endless hours of entertainment, plotting and planning for next year’s crops, devising the next new experiment, getting out in the sun to enjoy the weather and look after her plant babies. She’ll be able to give away produce to her boys and they’ll all be eating the cheapest, healthiest organic fruit and vegetables possible.

Assuming that some charitable souls take on my unfortunate-looking sons, in years to come Old Lady Frogdancer, in between overseas trips, will be able to teach the next generation how to get their hands dirty and show them where food actually comes from. That’ll be pretty cool, I think.

Well, as the title at the top of this post says, time’s ticking away. The timer is about to ding for the last kneading for today’s sourdough loaves and once that’s done I have to go out and water the gardens. It’s a beautifully sunny day today and Thursday is my day off.

Hmm.. will I take the dogs down to the beach? Will I plant out some of the seedlings in the greenhouse? Will I continue painting the verandah? Ryan25’s quilt and Jenna’s scarf need to be finished soon, should I attack one or both of them? Should I knock over a couple more chapters in that retirement book I’m reading?

You know, it’s almost impossible to comprehend that soon I’ll be asking these questions of myself every single day… and then doing whatever I feel like.


Aussie fire – The Ultimate Guide to Financial Independence for Australians.

Cover of the book "Aussie FIRE - The ultimate guide to financial independence for Australians."

Earlier this year, way before Melbourne went into our second lockdown and the world was a sunnier place, a call went out to put together a book about FIRE, with Australian FIRE bloggers collaborating to write for an Australian audience. Much as we love the Americans, much of what is applicable to them isn’t the same in our corner of the world. We need Australian hints and tips to tweak to find the way to financial independence, and luckily there are some very clever people who have trodden the path before us to help show the way.

The very clever people and I were each assigned chapter/s and now, a few months later, the book has been released. It’s free on the Pearler website. It’s a comprehensive look at how the Financial Independence, Retire Early idea is being adopted and adapted by ordinary Australians who wish to take back control over their lives.

Aussie FIRE – The Ultimate Guide to FIRE for Australians

My chapter is towards the end of the book, where I talk about the possibilities in life without mandatory work. Interestingly, this was written way before I decided to actually retire at the end of this year. Maybe writing this piece was the first nudge towards my decision?

Chapter 21: Find your FIREstyle

If a genie emerged from a magic lamp and granted you 2 extra days a week to do
whatever you wanted – what would you do with that extra time? Do you even know?

If this scenario sounds improbable, think again. It happened to me at the start of this year. Well, ok… it wasn’t a genie but my principal who granted me the extra 2 days though I was so happy when she said yes that the moment appeared magical! I’m a secondary teacher and I decided, after 30 years in the classroom and 6 years on the FIRE path, that now was the time to go from full-time to part-time work.

Think of it – that’s 2 full workdays suddenly transformed into “me” time. Instead of
the job taking over the lion’s share of my week, I’m now there for 3 days. Over the
course of a year, that’s a LOT of extra free time.

Now put yourself in that picture. Whether you decide to slow down as I did or to pull the pin entirely from your job, there’s going to come a time when you have lots of free time in every week, month and year. Those weeks, months and years are going to keep on coming. It’s important to start thinking NOW about how you’re going to use that time in ways that bring joy and fulfilment to your life.

Quote from the chapter.

You’ve read plenty of good advice about money, numbers and spreadsheets in the
chapters before this one. It’s important to get your head around these things. But
ultimately, money is only a tool to facilitate every other area of your life. I’ll say it
again – money is a tool. It’s the other areas of your post-retirement life that often get overlooked in the planning stages. Yet these are the very areas in which our lives are built.

Let’s assume your financial plans are in place – one day you’ll be able to enjoy many
decades of life in retirement. Terrific! Now… how are you going to fill your days?

I don’t mind admitting that this question still fills me with a creeping kind of fear. I
know I’m not alone. The questions of “But what if I get bored?” and, “But what will I do all day?” are real. Our jobs take up a huge part of each workday, especially when the time spent on commuting is taken into account. Many people leave home in the dark and get home in the dark, only having the weekends to race around to get everything else done.

Given this, it makes total sense that people might be a bit leery about what life in
early retirement will be like. And yet, that’s precisely why we should be looking
towards that time and building relationships, friendships, investigating possible
interests, and building expectations about how we’ll design our lives once we’re the ones deciding how our hours will be spent.

There’s no point running towards having total freedom over our time if we don’t
know what we’ll do with it once we get there!

Early retirement
This sounds fabulous but really; what does “early” even mean? Depending on where you currently stand on the continuum between the cradle and the grave, “early” can mean anything from 25 to 65.

Speaking as a woman who’s heading into the shady end of her fifties, “early” to me
means anything a few years before pension age. Anyone who has been able to get
their financial act together and retire before they “have to” is doing alright in my
book. But to someone in their thirties or forties, the prospect of retiring at 60 might seem impossibly old. It’s all relative.

An important consideration about early retirement, especially if you’re on the younger end of that continuum is that your plans need to have the flexibility to pivot and change as your interests and situations evolve. My wishes and needs as a single parent of 4 small boys, back when I was on the Sole Parents Pension over 20 years ago are now very different as my family has grown and I’ve reached FI. Same person, but different life stages. You won’t remain as you are now – take my word for it!

Beware of remaining too rigid in your plans and expectations – it’s smart to allow
some wriggle-room in your plans for how your retirement will appear.

Whether you’re aiming at 20 or 50 years of retirement, those days will have to be
filled. We’ve already assumed that you have your finances in order, so before you
actually pull the pin and charge off into the sunset, it’s an excellent idea to put some serious thought into the core beliefs and values that underpin your life.

In other words: what brings you a deep sense of satisfaction – of a day well spent?
Who (or what) brings laughter and joy to your life?
Are there any skills or creative endeavours that you’ve always had a yen to master
but simply never had the time?
Think of travel. Which destinations lift your heart and make you want to pack your
bags to head out there??

Do you feel a desire to give back to the community in some way? Our society is run
on the work of volunteers in so many different areas. Is there a niche where you’ve
always had a sneaking suspicion that you’d enjoy working in?

Maybe you don’t want to create works of art, but instead, you’d like to be a
consumer. Are there books you’ve always wanted to get lost in? Galleries that you’d love to wander around in, unfettered by time? Bands or orchestras that you’ve always wanted to hear? Sporting teams or events that you’d love to be able to soak up the atmosphere and get lost in the excitement?

Retirement is definitely the time to dust off those dreams and start living them. If
not then, when? And if you’ve set yourself up for ‘early’ retirement, that’s even better! Imagine all the possibilities…

Passion projects.

Isn’t that a great term? PASSION PROJECTS! How could you not want to sink your
teeth into something like this?

For me, a passion project is something that you do for yourself. I’ll be covering
voluntary work next – but a passion project is an activity that you’ve always hankered to spend more time on but had to back off from, due to the pressures of life and work. Now – as you leave work, time is no longer a barrier.

What do you want to achieve?

Just let that question sit with you for a bit…

Can you feel your spirits lift as ideas start to rise to the surface?

Creative types can dust off the woodworking tools, the paintbrushes or dive
headlong into their stashes of crafting materials. A guy I went to school with retired a little while ago and has turned his garage into a studio. In his youth, he went to art school but then spent decades in the police force in order to support his family. Now, he finally has the time to spend honing his craft – and he loves it.

My cousin chooses to spend a lot of time on the golf course. She’s always been active throughout her life but golf is a game that takes up a fair chunk of time. She’s happily engaged in improving her game as often as she likes now – her job is no longer standing in her way.

People with itchy feet, whether for local or international travel, are in for a treat. The world is almost literally their oyster. This is something that I’m definitely looking forward to exploring. I’m an English history buff and it was so thrilling to actually walk in the same rooms and streets as the people I’ve been reading about my whole life. My trip to North Korea, by contrast, was fascinating (and a little unnerving) in very different ways. The world is such a wide and wonderful place and I can’t wait to see more of it.

So many passion projects that revolve around the home! Gardening, pottering
around the shed and doing projects around the place – all bring a great sense of
pride and satisfaction.

My father spent years doing up vintage cars. His passion was for an English brand –
the Riley. It was his first car, so naturally, he has a warm spot in his heart for them.
He’d find old wrecks, bring them home in boxes and spend the next few years
painstakingly restoring them, one by one, back to their former glory. Along the way he taught himself many skills such as rebuilding motors, painting the exterior,
rewiring them, varnishing the woodwork dashboards and door features. He spent
HOURS in the garage, happy as a clam. He now has some beautiful cars to drive –
almost like works of art. Without a doubt, he counts those hours as time well spent.

Ultimately, the people we love and care about are what our lives revolve around. Our friends and family are a passion project in themselves! This can run the full spectrum of just chilling and having fun to becoming caregivers. When my mother fell and was very frail for a long while afterwards, I realised that the time spent with her is something to be cherished as it wasn’t going to last forever. One of the reasons I decided to work part-time was so I could see her more often and enjoy little moments that we’d otherwise not have had. Looking after grandchildren is definitely a passion project – apparently, people who have grandchildren are quite fond of them and like to spend time developing that relationship. Not something I know much about as of yet!

Quote from the chapter.

These passion projects are one thing, but what if you take it a step further and push these interests out into the wider world? You have the joy of doing things you enjoy, with the added benefits of working with other people and adding value to the community.

I have a friend, Mandy, who retired a couple of years ago when she was 56. She and her husband downsized to the Peninsula, where they were nearer to their
grandchildren and a more relaxed lifestyle near the beach. Even before she left her
job, she said to me a couple of times, “When I retire, I’m going to find a dog shelter
and walk the dogs. Not the little dogs; the big dogs that no one wants to walk.”

This is what she says about the role of volunteering in her life:
“I spent 12 months volunteering at 2 animal shelters and recently decided to
discontinue one of the roles. I was feeling overcommitted, (overcommitted in
retirement! Haha!!), and my role at one of the shelters was very physical and rather thankless. I kept going for the sake of the animals but ultimately decided to focus my energy on the shelter where I feel my contribution has the most impact and is more valued. If I want to increase my shelter volunteer work again in the future I can easily commit to additional shifts at that same shelter.”

Her voluntary work also has a little bonus – Buddy, one of the dogs she walked
eventually found his way home with her.

Mandy also volunteers once a month in a local group that picks up rubbish at their
local beach. She sometimes takes her little grandchildren with her, which reinforces the value held in their family of looking after the environment while also doubling as a fun afternoon on the beach with Gran.

You can see by Mandy’s example that volunteering needn’t be a huge time-suck.

She walks the dogs on Monday mornings and is home for lunch. The beach clean-
ups are once a month for an hour or two, yet doing these things means that she satisfies a need to be useful and valuable in society. She’s also naturally building new friendships and ties with her town, avoiding feeling isolated or lonely.

Mandy chose her voluntary work based on her love of dogs and the environment.
You, too, might have interests or values that would lend themselves beautifully to a voluntary gig or two.

Religious? Why not teach a Sunday school class, or do R.E. classes at primary school?
Many churches seem to have opportunity shops, so a few hours a week in one of
those would help raise much-needed funds for charity.
If you’re sporty, then there’s a myriad of community sporting groups that need
coaches, people who look after the sporting equipment and people to run the
As a teacher, I know for a fact that schools are always looking for people to give their time to help out with kids who are having trouble with basic literacy and numeracy. Volunteering your time in a task like this can literally change a kid’s life for the better.

I have another friend, Libby, who is a keen advocate for social justice. When she
retired a few years ago, she put her hand up to help out at a charity for refugees. She collects and assembles food parcels and clothes for families who have arrived here after escaping the most horrific conditions. Libby lives in the inner suburbs and has a beautifully busy social life, but her face lights up when she talks about her days at the charity. She absolutely loves it

As for me, I haven’t really thought that far ahead when it comes to volunteering. I’ve vaguely thought that I might teach a class in literature or poetry at U3A – the
University of the Third Age, which are classes run for and by retirees. I’ll probably knit warm hats and scarves for the homeless – I hate the cold and I like making quilts and knitting things to keep my loved ones warm.

But who knows what may emerge? The beauty of volunteering is that there is
literally something for everyone. It’s just a matter of being open to possibilities and keeping your eye out.

Less stress
I don’t know about you, but almost every retired person I’ve talked to laughs and
says, “I don’t know how I ever found the time to work!”

Don’t you hate that? Especially if you’re at work and the person has dropped in to
gloat to visit their old work-mates.

I asked Mandy about whether the pace of life has changed for her since she left work two years ago. She said, “One by-product of retirement is that I’ve finally learned to slow down – most of the time anyway. It took quite a while to wind back to a gentler pace, but generally, I no longer feel the urgency to get everything done today, not when I can see a whole bunch of ‘todays’ in front of me. Life is not lived at the same frantic pace as before and there is more time to enjoy the small moments. Interestingly too, having learned to slow down, I just don’t need as many things to fill the day. Compared to my pre-retirement life, I now feel like I do a lot of “nothing”. It’s not really that I’m doing nothing of course, but I’m going at a slower pace and enjoying more quiet moments.”

The FIRE lifestyle has so much going for it! Free of financial constraints and with
years of extra time to spend on what you decide, it’s a lifestyle that’s hard to beat.
When you fill those decades of extra time with activities that mesh with your core
beliefs and values, you have the recipe for an extremely rewarding life.

For me, that’s worth striving for.


I highly recommend that you jump over to Pearler’s website and snag yourself a copy if you haven’t already. So many really clever people – most of whom aren’t scared of Maths like I am – have contributed to this book. Hence there are subjects about getting on the road to FIRE that I’ll never cover!

I’d like to thank Pearler, (a new trading platform) and Michelle for the chance to collaborate with all of the other writers.

Hope you find it useful!

Financial Independence = reaping the harvest.

When a harvest occurs, it’s usually the end result of actions that have gone before. A farmer plants his crops and reaps the harvest, a gardener plants her seeds and has a glut of tomatoes, and a student studies diligently and scores well in the end-of-year exams.

Six years ago I had a paid-off house and $10 in the bank. Today I have the option to never work again if I feel like it. I’m a cautious soul though and that’s why I dropped back to part-time work this year. I only have myself to depend upon because I’m unlikeable and have no man to lean on, (LOL) so I want to play it safe.

But by combining the long-term strategies of frugality and being a Valuist with shorter-term strategies such as working a second job, investing and taking advantage of an opportunity when it came along, I now have financial independence.

This state of affairs didn’t come out of nowhere. I read hundreds, if not thousands of blog posts, gradually picking up ideas and concepts about esoteric things like investing… the 4% Rule… index funds vs individual shares… geoarbitrage… the concept that spreadsheets are fun, (though the jury’s still out on this one, by the way!)

These things didn’t come naturally to me. I’m scared, quite literally, when I see a lot of numbers. But like drops of water falling steadily onto a rock, over time the new concepts gradually made an impression and I began to put things into action.

A very young Poppy and Jeff in our old veggie garden.

When I began to walk along the road leading to financial independence, I had a very hazy idea that I’d like to be able to have a dignified retirement where I’d never have to ask my kids for money. My grandfather lived until his early nineties and by the time he was in his late eighties he’d run out of money. The Age Pension wasn’t enough to pay for all his needs, so Mum and Dad had to step in and give financial help every now and then.

In contrast my father’s mother was comfortably cared for up until the time she died at 96. She didn’t lead a flashy lifestyle, but every need and a huge percentage of her wants was catered for by the work she and my other grandfather put into their savings and investments.

Their portfolio was put together over decades of slow and careful work. My grandpa went out and earned the money – both by his ‘day job’ running a shop and by his ‘side hustle’ of performing on the Tivoli Circuit as a rope spinner, juggler and hypnotist. (Interesting man!) My grandma stayed at home to raise the family, but at the same time, she also ran a boarding house for international students and was FRUGAL. (To be honest… nowadays we’d definitely call her cheap.)

Their comfortable and secure retirement was the result of thousands of small decisions taken over decades, with each small step leading inexorably towards the harvest.

As a young woman, particularly after I spawned the ugly and smelly beings that I affectionately call my family, I observed and learned from these stories, even though I wasn’t fully conscious of it. When I began to learn about financial independence, FIRE and everything in between, I didn’t know exactly how I’d get to my hazy goal.

I decided that I wanted to be financially secure (whatever that was!!) by the time I reached Pension Age. AND – stretch target – to not need the pension at all!!! I was around 50 years old. Pension age in Australia is 67. I’d paid off my house and I had a secure job. The table that Mr Money Mustache had on his Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement showed me that I could do it, especially now that the kids were growing up and gradually becoming independent.

I set off, determined to work until I was 67 and retire on a very secure combination of superannuation, shares and no debt.

Good enough harvest for you?

In gardening, it’s not enough to throw some seed on the ground, walk away and come back a few months later and expect a bountiful harvest. There are hundreds of little actions that the gardener has to perform, such as weeding, watering, thinning out the seedlings and protecting them from frost and pests. The same is true of reaching the goal of financial independence.

It’s a game for the patient.

The good news is that patience can be learned.

Ask me how I know!

There’s a quiet satisfaction when you walk to your garden beds and see the seedlings steadily growing. It’s akin to the feeling when you see your mortgage heading down, further every month. The feeling you get around your heart as you deposit money from every pay and you see your FU Fund or Emergency account growing bigger.

You know that each little action, no matter how small and ineffectual it may seem on its own, is a little step closer to your goal.

And the closer you get to your goal, the sharper and more defined it becomes. Life is a funny thing. Sometimes shortcuts appear that you would probably never have noticed if you weren’t steadily working on achieving something.

Achieving the goal? Now that’s more than a quiet satisfaction! Bringing in the harvest is a sweet and precious thing. Look towards it and keep stepping to it.

After all, the time will pass anyway. You may as well enjoy living with a bountiful harvest, instead of a head full of empty wishes and dreams.

Lockdown at Frogdancer’s place.

Scout was very sick for a couple of days, but now she’s back to normal.

So it’s been a week since schools shut down when the school holidays were brought forward by 4 days and we’re now in official ‘school holiday’ time. Lockdown was officially brought in on Saturday night (I think), so what has been going on here while the country grinds slowly to a halt?

David26 packing his bags to move over to his girlfriend’s place. She lives at home with her parents…

We had the uncomfortable chat with adult kids that a lot of families are having, especially since the new laws came in forbidding meetings of more than 2 people. David26 was over at Izzy’s place when all of this came into effect. For newer readers, Izzy is immunocompromised as she’s fighting leukaemia. After checking with Izzy’s family, David26 has elected to stay there for the duration.

He came back, masked and gloved, to pack some clothes, food and musical equipment. He’s spending his days helping Izzy’s Dad with major renovations on their house, (aka learning some manly skillz) and writing lots of music with Izzy. He’s happy.

Evan23, facetiming from Ballarat. Strike a pose!

Evan23 is up in Ballarat with the other people from his acting course. This photo was what he sent after I said that his hair looked lustrous. It made me laugh! Apple doesn’t fall far, as they say. He’s moved into the share house that his girlfriend lives in, along with one of the other podcast guys. Lots of board games, lots of drinking, lots of painting. He bought canvases and paint as part of his panic buying before the lockdown.

Tom28 is an accountant and so far he’s been able to hang onto his job. We have long phone calls nearly every day.

Fortunately, I’m sharing lockdown with the quietest and most introverted son. Our house is blissfully quiet. The only sounds I hear, apart from his lectures from his uni course, are music or ‘Animal Crossing’ drifting from his room. We have little chats, then part to do our own things, then we meet up again to share things we’ve seen online etc. It’s chilled.

I posted this shot below, after a wonderful moment on Saturday night.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been back since, because on Sunday little Scout came down with a tummy bug and was really quite sick for a couple of days. Then, just as she was getting better, Jeffrey came down with it.

Jeff this morning.

Jeffrey was VERY sick. So sick that I took him to the vet at 8 AM yesterday. She couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so directed me to feed him boiled chicken and rice. This morning he ate some, the first food he’s had for over 2 days. He then wagged his tail. I’d say he’s turning the corner. Phew!

Correction still goes on…

I had to bring home some correction and I was getting kids who had self-isolated earlier to send me work via email, so I was still keeping busy in the last few weeks of term. One poor little boy, who only scored 4/30 on his grammar test, sent me what sounded like a chirpy little email after I released his mark to him.

Something along the lines of “Hi Ms Jones! Could you please send me my grammar test so my Mum and tutor can go over it with me? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!”

Poor kid. That’s the LAST thing anyone would want. His Mum was almost certainly standing by his shoulder, dictating what to type. I’d already given him 15 extra minutes to complete the test, as I knew he struggles with English. Fortunately – or UNfortunately, depending on whether you’re the student or his Mum – his was a test I’d brought home. So I photo-ed the pages and emailed them across.

Another chirpy email thanked me. Poor kid…

Our fence – naked.

One of the projects I want to get done is to paint the front fence. Over the fullness of time, the lawn will be mostly replaced by garden beds. It’ll be an oasis. The following photo is the colour scheme I’ve chosen.


My parents have been gallivanting around, so I had a stern talking-to with them. They’re over 80, for God’s sake. Anyway, after this, they’ll either heed what I say or they just won’t tell me. After all we’ve been through with them, health-wise, over the past year, you’d think they’d be more sensible.

My first pumpkin.

It was the end of the month yesterday, so I did my usual monthly net worth check. I estimated that it would’ve gone down around 150K due to the wild ride that the share market has been delivering. Imagine my relief when I was ‘only’ down 107K!! Feels like a bargain! Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again!

But look at this fine pumpkin. I’ve never been able to grow them before, but the compost materials I’ve been bringing home from work, coupled with the wicking beds, have brought forth a bonanza of pumpkins. I’m so happy. This one was so heavy it fell off the vine, so Ryan25 brought it in. It’s sitting next to the tromboncino zucchini seeds I’m drying for next year.

Ryan25 just came in to tell me that it looks like Australia is starting to flatten out the curve, which is good news. Meanwhile in the US, this is happening:

It beggars belief, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I hope that you and yours are safe and well. It’s a time to quietly enjoy our nearest and dearests and live life at a slower pace. It’s Wednesday morning at 10:30 and I’m still sitting on the couch in my pjs. On a normal Wednesday I would have taught 2 classes by now! Jeff is snoring beside me, Ryan25 is playing some 80’s music and the sun is shining. I’ll have brunch and get out into the garden today, I think.

Stay safe! Stay home!

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