Friday, July 18, 2014

The Price of the Frugal Road Trip

My travel vehicle of choice tends to be my car. Occasionally I take a train trip and on rare occasions I fly (generally only over open water).  Unlike many of my fellow retirees, I don't camp, and I've decided that an RV is not for me, for a variety of reasons. Having said all that, I wouldn't necessarily mind a small camping or mini trailer, similar to what Cindi and her husband have purchased.  Some readers may remember my pictures of hand painted trailers that I've taken at various craft fairs and antique fairs.  Meanwhile though,  I stick to my car. I can drive it as fast as I like. My car allows me to go on most any road, anywhere. My car is very comfortable and in general, it limits my need to control what I have packed.

I honestly have no idea how travel costs in a car compares to traveling in an RV or camper.  There are so many different factors to take into account, and each person will come up with a different result. In my case,  have some general budget guidelines that I take into consideration when planning a road trip.

The costs that I share here are for true "road tripping".  Driving from place to place along the road during the day (be it the gulf coast, the road from Moab to Tuscon or other trips).  Destination travel is budgeted differently, at least by me. I generally choose to stay in the center of, say, San Francisco.  This requires a different kind of cost comparison.  Nor do I share costs for the "fun stuff".  Below I'm only sharing the basic costs of driving from point a to point b for whatever purposes.  Really good restaurants, intriguing side trips and other things are part of my road trip travel, of course. I am the girl for whom the road itself is the adventure.  For cost comparison though, we're talking about the basics here-car, gas, food and sleep.  The basics of life no matter where you are going to, or coming from. 

When it comes to gas, I have a 20 gallon tank and that's a double edged sword, as the saying goes.  The bad news is that it takes a very long time to fill my tank. The good news is that my full tank takes a very long time to empty.  Because the bulk of my "regular, non loss leader" grocery shopping is done at King Soopers, I try very hard when possible to fill up at King Soopers/Kroger gas stations.  I generally budget 20 gallons or one of my tanks for 400 miles, and sometimes do much better.  This price is for "road tripping" and not city driving.

I have lots of options for places to lay my head, and they have a variety of prices, depending on the option. My absolute base budget for a place to sleep is right around a hundred dollars for a single night.  This includes taxes and extras. I've been known to go lower and to go above.  On this particular trip, where the destination was more important than the drive, I stayed at a Best Western along the way. Once here, I found a cheap "extended stay option" of $300 for five nights at a "basic hotel".  In my experience the best ways to explain the differences in motels is the number of pillows and the quality of the bathroom supplies.  On everything else the variance is too wide.  On the other hand, one of the pluses of car travel is carrying my own bath sheet, extra pillows and brands of personal products.

 For those readers who have asked along the way, I have on very rare occasions slept in my car.  Generally this is in emergency situations or the rare occasion when I decide to try and drive 12 hours in one day and crash.  I do this because I have two very vocal, very aware dogs, and a large, safe car with seats that lie back for a few hours. I would never "spend the night in my car".   

When it comes to food for traveling the open road, the variance can be very high. I like very good food.  When traveling along the gulf coast, say, my lunch would probably be seafood every day.  I'm a big fan of local cuisine and have been trying to duplicate the shrimp burger from the shrimp shack in Beaufort, SC for more years than I care to admit.  Having shared all that, I consider that kind of food to be "entertainment, or travel". 

 My basic road trip food plan consists of a really good cooler that includes cotton napkins and real plates and glasses. My cooler holds water, coke (we all have our own caffeine needs), cut up fruit and veggie sets from the grocery section, and crackers and cheese.  Add other things as the mood hits.  While I am very poor at tracking this, I would say I allow an extreme maximum $20 of food per day and have a goal of using closer to five dollars. I often using nothing but my cooler for a two day drive, especially in picnic weather.  Some days my food costs are $5 grocery costs. This means that I take advantage of the hotel breakfast, use my cooler and often hit a grocery before dinner, grabbing say, a small chicken and a couple other things to fill out my options.  By doing this, I always, without fail have enough to eat at all those local eateries I was talking about, even if it is multiple times a day.

Car maintenance and car emergencies.  In theory, this is not an "out of pocket road budget cost".  But it does fit into my road tripping costs overall, so it's worth sharing.  Put simply, when you get a car, most guides have a "high use" and "regular use" maintenance standard.  Even though my car is extremely low mileage use, I always maintain things at the more strict schedule and I always get my oil changed on time.  The cost of this will vary between person and car. My dealer has a package price for maintenance and tire rotation of $175 annually.  In terms of emergency management, I pay a couple bucks a month for towing with USAA. If I did not have that option, I would use AAA or AARP for an unknown cost.

My basic road tripping costs? Twenty gallons of gas for a six hour drive (this one you have to fill out depending on your cost of gas and will vary according to your car's functions, a hundred dollars a night for some shut eye, and twenty dollars for food.  On this particular trip, a two day drive, I my total budget was $90 for gas, $100 for one night, and 40 for food, for a total $230.00 budgeted.  My real costs were less. My hotel was slightly cheaper, my food was much less (a really, really good hotel breakfast with fruit and breads that I was encouraged to take and farmers markets affected this one).  The end result were that my costs were less than $200.00.

Again, this is my personal experience and others will have different results.  These were my costs only for the basics. Many of my road trips include stops at roadside museums or other sights were there might be additional costs, costs that I consider travel or entertainment.  Using my drive from Moab to Tuscon as an example, there were both free (Arches National Park, Monument Valley) and not free (a local micro brewery, some caverns, Indian turquoise jewelry) entertainment and events.  Those are fun, and the reason I road trip, and yes, I budget for them (more in another post).  But my basic, standard travel budget no matter where I go includes the primary needs and costs shown above.

And there you have it, my basic minimal budgeting for hitting the road.  I get many of these costs lower due to apps, aggregate sites, bidding sites and more.  But my basic, put my money in the hopper budget remains just above $100 a day, with all savings put back into the road trip fund.

Oh, and one final thought.  These costs do not include the price of canine children, which can vary widely.  My Best Western, for example, only required a deposit that was refunded the next day.  I have, however, paid up to fifteen dollars per dog.  Generally, my "dog tax" is less than boarding, so it works for me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This Week In Retirement-Road Tripping With Dogs and Other Thoughts

Tomorrow, I head out for Texas.  Believe it or not, this will be the first time back since I moved.  My eldest visited in November and I have just not had a chance to get back yet.  She asked me to specifically visit this week as her boyfriend's mother will be visiting for four days and we will have a chance to meet. It works for me!  The downside is that this is the third Sunday rather than the second or fourth when my women's support group meet.  Hopefully I will get a chance to visit.

I have absolutely no real plans this trip.  I will go out to dinner a couple nights, sit with my daughter by the pool for a couple days.  I'll visit a quilting friend and perhaps go shopping. If my in-laws are up to it (mother in law just got home after four months in rehab) I will at least go by and say hello.  In other words, this is a vacation trip, not travel as such.  There is a portion of old route 66 I have not seen, and I may get to those cars parked upside from end to end on the way home, but that's not the purpose of this trip.

I'll also be taking my coon hound and beagle on this trip. One of the reasons I enjoy car travel is that I can often take my babies with me.  Don't get me wrong, there are places I will not take my dogs.  They'll be staying home during my week in Santa Fe, and certainly not going with me on a train trip to San Francisco. On the other hand, there are many destination type vacation and travel trips where they are definitely part of the trip.

While I am no expert in dog travel, I have learned a few things along the way.  In spite of what people think for example, dogs do better in the back seat than the trunk. My dog plan for travel is really very simple.  I cover the back seat with a blanket. In between my dogs I put a sturdy bowl (yes, on occasion they spill it, but I usually wrap a down around it and don't worry.  I do put suitcases or other items in between the seat and the back of the front seat so sharp stops don't send my doggies crashing. I do stop every three hours at a minimum and get out and walk (for all three of our health and sanity). I do leave the leashes on (I believe eliminating the fall factor generally eliminates the strangle factor in a car). I don't leave my dogs alone in the car for longer than it takes me to go to the bathroom at a rest stop. Ever.

Will my dogs have times when they are left in a hotel? You bet.  They have times when they are left at home.  But their happiness, my happiness, and my budget is better served having them with me when possible.  They also add a level of safety to single travel.  And no, up to now I have never had a problem finding a decent room.

In other news this week:
  • I'm enjoying every minute of my lush patio from the covered pergola to the grape leaves to the flowers and vegetables everywhere-and feeling only sightly guilty that my only contribution to this experience is the slave labor of my youngest child.  Right now I'm trying to decide how to use the grapes, grape leaves and crab apples from the front yard.
  • I've fallen off the wagon when it comes to my walking.  I am NOT a morning person so that early morning stroll idea does not work for me.  We seem to have had showers every day after dinner without fail. I need to get back on the wagon or start doing an aerobics program on the TV.
  • I'm looking for another "group" to engage in.  I enjoy my knitting group, as well as my quilting buddies. But I'm used to a couple get together events a week. A dinner and a movie or book group would be welcome.  I've begun looking for the right option for me.
  • I'm also feeling like I need another volunteer commitment-one that involves getting out of the house rather than making stuff.  I enjoy making stuff, but that's a different kind of involvement. I'm the girl that needs to be in the middle.  The making something or donating something method does not work for me.
  • As always, I have three crafts going at once-for now it's knitting a shawl, quilting and painting. I've jumped ahead from beginning knitting to a complicated long multi-media shawl and a short sleeved sweater.  My quilting these days mainly concentrates on the holidays.
  • Rather than take an in the classroom class, I've been taking online classes.  Right now I'm involved in how to paint flowers, and an American Music Class online.  I've always said that I prefer to be in a mixed age group, but in the fall semester I'll be trying at least on OLLI class to see what I may or may not be missing.
  • I'll come back from my daughter's and head to the mountains for two weekends and then to Santa Fe for a week in August. Rather than taking the interstate from here to there, we'll be taking back roads over a 500 foot high bridge and traveling down through Taos. I still need to clarify my route.
  • I've officially jumped back on the blogging bandwagon, realizing just blogging when I feel like it works not a bit for me.  Many of my two or three times a week blog posts may be nothing more than a picture or three lines, but if I don't plan a little bit, I don't write (or photograph much, or draw, or paint my sewing room). It's also time to change the look of this page, so bear with me, please.  I've become very adept with my phone camera, its just the editing and loading to the laptop I'm working on!
  • As part of that revamping this blog will become even more of a lifestyle blog-even including ideas and projects-based on my living richly in retirement theme.  I'll be taking some of the really old articles, especially the financial ones, out to revamp into book chapters in some cases.  This will, however, still be a frugal retirement blog at heart.
  • Finally, I am reminded of how many easy, low cost and free ways their are to entertain, be entertained, explore, learn and play, on any given day and in almost every place.
I'll be posting soon about frugal road tripping in terms of the travel itself and the end destination as well as getting some photos up along the way. ....and off I go!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Living Richly in Retirment-Enjoying the Process

Today, as always is a low key, relaxing day here at Chez Barbara.  When you own three dogs and live close to rec centers, parks and biking trails, the 4th of July becomes a challenge once dusk arrives.  Calming drops, closing up the house and using fans and music helps.  Still, fireworks are challenge for all involved, and it can be a long night.

Fortunately, I rarely feel deprived on this one. I lived in Washington DC for over twenty years, and for over twenty years saw the best firework display in the world every fourth.  Since there are no children around, I am quite happy having an early barbecue, enjoying the yard at it's fullest and retiring to the inside in the evening.  It does however mean that after dog stress the next day I am even moving more slowly than my normal non-morning self.

Today, I've been playing with altered houses, thinking ahead to the fall holidays and other events. The houses, paint and decorations sit on my crafting table, along with a couple idea sketches.  I spent sometime looking at a couple Santa Fe travel guides, trying to decide how I will spend my week in that lovely city. I've been experimenting with some summer style slow cooker recipes such as barbecue pork.  I've decided to begin writing Richly in Retirement, whether it gets published or not. Oh, and I'm jumping into an online art course with Open to Study that begins today.

Some of the projects and plans I'm invested in now will have an obvious end result.  Some will change many times before the final product or trip.  Some, quite frankly may never get finished, or at least not finished enough to share.  For me, this is okay.  The truth is that I enjoy the playing, process, and planning, the doing if you will.  I am not one of those people who feel that I have to have a positive or even a completed end result to feel that I have accomplished something worthwhile.

During my brief "working world" time, I managed and ran children's programs for various health clubs.  I also did birthday parties.  One of the most popular parties was a "concoction" party. Not really a science party, not really an art party.  The kids would make colored "goop" in Ziploc bags.  They would make homemade clay, edible clay and similar items.  At the end of the day, some of the children would have all kinds of sculptures or shapes made out of their clay concoctions.  Some however, would have nothing but the clays and goop to take home-and they were just as happy.  These kids made a shape, kneaded the clay again and made a different shape and rinsed and repeated.  While they had less to take home and "show", they had just an enjoyable a time, and were probably more creative than those who departed with finished "art" to show their parents.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy finished products and plans. I enjoy the reward they bring, to me and others.  I just also get reward from the doing, and don't think every endeavor needs to be a finished project, or necessarily have an end goal as such.  I'm taking the online art course because I enjoy the process.  Will there be a finished project to share?  Who knows.  Certainly my trip planning has a specific end goal.  If I get to Santa Fe and decide to go an entirely different way in terms of spending my time, I'll not be upset or bothered. I'm writing the book because I like to write-it may get published, but if not, the writing will have had it's own merit for me.

Recently I've had two instances where I had a wonderful time in the creation process, but there was no end result. In the first case, I altered a recipe. I enjoyed playing with the ingredients.  The end result was, well, not what I was looking for.  I don't consider this a fail-but rather part of the process.  I've also begun encaustic painting (painting with wax).  So far I've done absolutely nothing but put colors and wax mixes on paper-which has eventually been recycled.  This is okay.

I love a sense of completion.  I don't expect everything I do to end up as a product or plan or be part of a product or plan.  If that were true, I would never just draw to draw, walk to walk, or experiment with new products or hobbies.  Life is meant to be experiential, experimental, playful, relaxed and enjoyable.  Sometimes structure or a goal is part of that process, and sometimes it isn't.

And on that note, I'm about to take a stroll.  Not because it's healthy, not so that I can get my heart rate up, not so that I can challenge myself, but just because a little walk sounds good.  Right now.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Living Alone In Retirement-Are Women More Content?

 Recently I've had some requests to talk about about single retirement, especially issues on living alone in retirement such as safety for women.  I've been wanting to talk more about women in retirement and single retirement within my "living richly" purview.  However, I already had this related post in the hopper after a discussion.  Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

Although I am single in retirement, I no longer "live alone".  Even so, I lived alone for almost seven years, with my "alone-ness" broken up by summer visits from college students. Although I enjoy my house sharing situation and it has worked well for me, I was not unhappy living alone-in any way.  What's more, if I expect that somewhere down the road, in five or so years, I will be in the same place if you will-single and living alone.  I look forward to that time.

I thrived while I was living alone, and I expect that I will do so again.  What's more, it seems that I am not alone. As a group, women who live alone in retirement are happy, content and satisfied.  More so, it would seem than men in the same situation.

Certainly singles, single women especially can have some disadvantages in retirement. Many of those disadvantages are on the financial front.  Men still make more than women, on average, and as such even men who have remained single will often have more financial resources than women in the same boat.  Some single retirees will arrive in that place by death or divorce, which have their own adjustment issues.

Money, however, does not in and of itself make a retirement life, and when it comes to lifestyle women adjust better to living alone and than men, at this time of life.  For awhile now, I have wanted to read Going Solo, the Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, written by sociologist Erik Klinenberg. This book is filled with both statistical and anecdotal information about singles at all states of life.  Interestingly, approximately 28 percent of Americans live alone (a larger percentage than any other family unit).  

One surprising (to some folks) result of this research is that women seem to be better suited to living alone than men, especially after "a certain age". Not because we are more into solitude, or because we are more self-sufficient or used to being "at home"  On the contrary.  Women succeed because we have stronger social networks, meaning we can "live alone without being alone".  Men, according to Klinenberg, are more likely to withdraw in social and other ways. 

While this is just one view, it reflects my experience. The nature of being single, and living alone has changed. In today's environment, one can have a social life, a romantic life, and live alone.  We can go out and visit, walk to stores or galleries, drive down the road to a book club or library meeting, while still enjoying living alone. We can Skype or Facebook family members and friends who may live across the country or the world. Living alone no longer means isolation, or "being alone:.

Whether it's nature or nurture, it's the women and the wives who have been the keepers and maintainers of family contacts, maintained the family friendships, carried on "relationships".  We are the folks who generally keep in contact with the kids, visit with the neighbors over the fence and more.  We are more likely (if we were married) to have had true friendships or social relationships outside of our marriage.  Divorced and widowed men most likely worked long hours, came home and spent time with the wife and kids primarily to the exclusion of everything else.

These are generalities, and of course there are exceptions and lots of them. What's more, the world is changing rapidly, and what is true now may not be true for my 35 year old child.  Still, the evidence is there.  During the 1995 heatwave in Chicago (just as an example) single women retirees outnumbered men by almost two to one.  Almost all of those elderly who died were men-because they had no friends to check on them

What are the lessons here?  As a happy single retiree who is an expert on almost nothing, I have no idea.  It does, however occur to me that we would all be happier with trusted friends and confidants outside of marriage. I think it also supports the argument that spouses should not only rely on each other or their children for emotional sustenance.

Again, I am not an expert.  I'm a widow who has certainly experienced long term grief (six years later I'm about to attend a grief support group again) and some financial setbacks who still is loving my single retirement and all it gives me. They say when a door closes another opens. Living alone simply allows me to meet more friends, and have more activities.  The fact that it allows me to stay up till two am without worrying about disturbing anyone, or eat popcorn for dinner (I don't but I could) is simply an extra.

What about you?  Are you single and retired?  Looking ahead to retirement? Do you know single retirees?  Are they happy?  Do you feel sorry for them? Do you still see "coupling" as the best way to live? Feel free to share!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why I Have A Business in Retirement-And Why I Don't Have a Job

Whether or not to work-or bring in extra income in retirement is an individual choice.  Some people never want to see anything that looks like work or a business again.  Some folks work because they find it enriching. Others work to keep up with temporary bills or fund a major expenditure. We are all different and how we deal with that is unique.  Recently Bob over at Satisfying Retirement fielded questions from a reader about income options, sharing examples from fellow bloggers and his own experiences.

In my case I chose to bring in an income-for how. My reasons are simple, and perhaps not unique to me.  I have an expensive hobby (at least one) some expensive travel plans, and a temporary expense (taken on by choice) that I would like to lower.  In the first case, I am a quilter and artist. There is no such thing as cheap quilting fabric, or equipment.  In the second case, I have decided to fly to Europe and take a Rhine Cruise-from where it begins to where it ends-and then maybe a cruise through French Wine Country.  Finally, as I have mentioned elsewhere, I have taken on a hefty car payment-again by choice.

I don't consider this extra income necessary to retirement survival or retirement satisfaction in any way. If I found my business or income generating a chore, I would drop it immediately.  My life has been very rich and satisfying without any of the above expenses. I have found casual food, the open road and all the free and relaxing activities available to me to allow living richly in retirement to the fullest. For now, a business works for me.

When I decided that I would add some income to my basic retirement, I never considered a job-as in working for someone else. I know people who have been extremely satisfied doing tours, working at home depot, teaching and doing other part time work. I was simply not used to working for anyone else (being an at home spouse for many years).  More importantly, I am a free spirit. I want to work when the mood strikes. If I want to take off for the weekend, I wanted to be able to do so. I did not want a "schedule" of places and times I needed to be. After all, even when I travel I avoid scheduling as much as I can.  So, the natural choice was a job I would do at home and/or a home business. I have chosen the latter.

When some folks hear the word business, they see investments, lots of extra paperwork, extra taxes.  Certainly some business can entail all of those. Most small business and small income opportunities have little to no investment or overhead. In fact, many small business can be started for $100 or less.  While I am not an expert in business, I know a person who has a handyman business (only expense is annual insurance), I know a person who makes and sells art. I know a person who makes and sells jewelry. I know a woman who bakes and sells at farmers markets and does Christmas cookies baskets at the holidays. I know a guy who has a dog walking and dog boarding business.  I know a woman who is a part time realtor.  In most of these cases, any investment was for insurance/bonding and minimal advertising (flyers, business cards).  When a start up is this low, one can take a risk.

When I decided to bring in money, I had certain requirements. I wanted any income opportunity to be portable. If I wanted to go away for the week on the spur of the moment I did not want to have to contact replacements, notify customers or do any of the other scheduling tasks. I wanted that job to be mainly done at home-I had this vision of me in my lounger on the patio with a mimosa and the laptop (and that has mainly worked out to be true), and I wanted something where I could create the hours.

My end result is that I have more than one "micro business", and my criteria are met 90 percent of the time.  All have been basically no expense start ups (I had basic equipment and needed advertising and office supplies).  What I do to make money depends on the time of year, but any of these "micro businesses" could be turned into an at home small business with minimal extra cost.  I make and sell quilts and quilted items. I do online research for clients through a third party broker. During the holidays I make and sell Special Occasion and Christmas cookie baskets for folks who want homemade cookies and have no time to make them. Last but not least, I do estate, house and rental clean outs-and sometimes I hold sales to sell the items. This last choice is the only time I go out of my house to a client-and even in this case much of what I do is done at home

Just as whether to bring an income into retirement is a unique choice, so is the form that income will take.Some people prefer the socialization of working for someone outside the home, as well as the chance to get out of the house.  Some people prefer to do business in their jammies. Many folks come somewhere in between. We all have to make a choice that works for us, depending on needs and lifestyle. The important thing is to know that choices are there, and if a business is what works best for you, well........know that you don't have to  but your retirement in danger to start that "freedom businesss"

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thoughts on "Stuff" In Retirement

Recently, I've had occasion to think about the "stuff" of retirement and life. The acquiring of stuff, the disposal of stuff, the passing down of stuff and the amount of stuff are things we all struggle with, in retirement as in any time.  I've been trying to find my comfort level in terms of both finances and amount of possessions, and have had a chance to learn a few things along the way.

First, I've been shopping-for replacements of things that I left behind one year ago.  In almost every case, replacement is at least as much as the original cost of the original item, and in one case more. This from the woman who looks for the best deal and is unafraid to shop used.

Some of you may remember my discussions on what to take and what to keep one year ago.  I reached out to my readers and asked them what they would do.  Many readers suggested cutting to the bone, with others suggesting taking everything and decided what I needed when I got here to others who suggested  everything in between.  One year plus later, I am here to say for the most part, that taking everything would probably have been the best choice.  In a couple cases the things I left behind were things I believed that I would not need for my future lifestyle and now need desperately. These include things like electric lawn mowers and lawn tools, winter shovels, and other items. I left behind a large sleigh bed and all that went with it, because I believed my new home would not hold them.  In each case, I sold these items for a literal song, giving someone a good deal. Even with the cost of expanding to a 24 from a 20 foot Uhaul, my replacement cost is, frankly bunches of money. The better choice, even with storage and moving would have been to take everything (except appliances, which neither travel nor store well) and have a yard sale on this end.

Second, I've been shopping-for summer replacement clothing. This has been a bit of a chore. I cannot try many things on in dressing rooms because my knee does just not do certain things in certain environments. This means I have to take clothing home and return it (my stores expect this).  I am not a person who can wander through a store and grab something and go. This has led to the return of many items. Ad to these to facts the fact that I have very specific requirements on what I buy and shopping becomes it's own experience.  After much shopping I realized that at least for me the more expensive choices made more financial sense in terms of comfort and longevity.

Third, I've been cleaning out an estate.  Recently we were hired to clean out a home.  The couple in question lived in this house for many years, and the wife died in her late nineties. We were brought in because the family care giver (a family member) had taken most anything of value and trashed the house.  Even so, going through the house was an adventure and learning experience.  The grandfather had worked on cars throughout the years and there were many pictures of his cars, as well as antique tools.  There were items of clothing spanning decades, with a house full of "things" even after the valuable things had been removed-books, photo albums, furniture from a life time.

What have I learned along the way this past week or so?

First, consider real replacement costs before eliminating things from my life. Downsizing serves no real purpose if items need to be replaced at an equal price or more. I've written more than once that one of the financial advantages at this time of life is that most of us have what we need and with some exceptions, can look at minimal "replacement costs". It's something I forgot in my downsizing effort.  

Second, that I am not a minimalist.  I enjoy the use of things, be they clothing or china. I simply need to find a comfortable stuff level for me.

Third, that for me quality trumps quantity every time. I would rather by two good quality comfortable skirts and wear them regularly than five of lesser quality (for the record, any Texas or Miami girl knows that skirts are more cool than shorts or Capri's)

And finally, stuff should be shared with family members and others while we can still control where it goes, and while it can be enjoyed by all. Before I left Texas I gave my daughter the family teacup collection, a couple figurines that she had wanted and other items (with the permission to do with them as she saw fit).  My son has already laid claim to some items, with the same permissions. Once an item is given, it's given.  Stuff is meant to be shared and enjoyed and giving now eliminates difficulty later.

My relationship with stuff may change, but right now my stuff, my finances  and I are in perfect harmony.  What about you?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Back for Good!! Retirement Finance Books, My RV Altrnatives and and more!!

Well, folks, when I shared my concerns about blogging awhile back, I told everyone that "life was getting in the way". The good news is that life as calmed down a bit as I have found some structure and eliminated the extraneous in retirement.  The bad news?  While I was working on becoming more flexible, I completely missed the fact that my comments had gone off automatic and left many of you out in the cold for a couple weeks.  I do apologize. I'm back to blogging two days a week, and I'll be commenting and responding to comments daily.  Thanks for your patience on this one, and please keep coming back.  

Meanwhile, these are a few of the things that have been on my mind the last week or so in retirement:

I've shared before with my readers the reason RV travel and vacationing is not or me personally. I enjoy driving and driving fast, I enjoy experimenting with different overnight alternatives, I like back road driving and more.  Another reason for preferring car travel is the ability to go luxurious in the extreme on occasion, as shown by this, my one week vacation rental in Santa Fe.  We'll be two couples sharing this beautiful house for one week, and I am counting down the days till August.  This house is also a perfect example of why I'm frugal.  Using regular reclined seating during train travel, exploring hostels and  other sleeping options in places like San Francisco and more allow me to spend money on a place like this with no worries.

As a frugal blogger, I'm always looking for interesting books on frugality and living richly in retirement. I rarely talk about investments or pre retirement finances here, mainly because there are so many books, so many experts and so much information out there. Much of the frugal literature was either written years ago (before the plethora of Internet resources) or primarily directed at families with young children.  Recently I had a chance to read a new book by Marie Brack.  While this book is not a retirement book, some of our experiences are similar.  Marie also left work to care for a terminally ill spouse and was unable to return to work. Her book covers all areas of frugal living, with an emphasis on creativity and originality. My situation is not the same as hers, I am not in the position of  having to use some of the more extreme solutions. Having said that, I always appreciate books that go beyond the "latte factor" and offer realistic deep cost cutting options.  Most boomers and retirees I know have already done those basic things that average pundits advise for saving money and occasionally  are looking for ways to cut closer to the bone, be it for a short period or more.  This book is a great addition to my digital bookshelf. Unfortunately this book is only available digitally at this time, but I hope to see it in paper soon.

Today I took a three hour nap.  Part of my retirement rightsizing has been stepping back and looking how best to enjoy my retirement.  While not eliminating everything from my life, I realized that going dawn to dusk is not for me.  I admire those extreme retirement folk who do so. I however, need serious amounts of "down" and me time.  My solution to that has been to try and implement my rule of "one". One intensive volunteer activity, a single course (online or in person), one major leave the house activity per day.  This has made retirement much more rightsized for me. On Wednesday in the morning I puttered. For me this means meditation time, working on craft stuff as the mood hits, writing a bi, taking a 20 minute walk and maybe and doing some online surfing.  From one until five, I was at a craft group and happy hour. My evening was spent reading and relaxing on the patio. This is the perfect balance of activity for me ,and what I need to return to. It works best for me to have one half of the day spent on a major activity, and the rest of the time fairly free.

I'm reading a monthly meditation for the Easter season (no, Easter is not over). Yesterdays question was to ask ourselves what practices we do that help us stay aware of God's presence in our life-to share them and consider adding a new one or replacing a practice that has grown stale.  While I am meditating on this for the next few days, it does occur to me that this response is one that applies to all aspects of life. How can we change our daily practices to keep us aware and engaged? 

I've been wanting to write (and journal) for quite awhile now-beyond basic blogging. I've not been as successful as I would like in this area.  I've finally realized that the best way to write is just to sit down and write. Every day.  And so it goes. One day a week I am writing on various "prompts".  The other day a week I am journalism about family using a family photo or two as a starting place. It's amazing how much just a half an hour of stream of consciousness writing can accomplish when one does it every day.

Finally, I'm reminded, as blogger on a different site mentioned, how rewarding life is with shared talents.  This is true with couples, groups and other dynamic situations. More importantly, the sharing of talents is much more successful when we think outside of the box in terms of expectations and roles. I was married to an excellent cook who cooked gourmet meals on the weekends and cleaned the house from top to bottom once a week even when I was a stay at home spouse (admittedly because he was more obsessive than I). I took out the garbage, dealt with the car repairs, managed the day to day money and more. While much of this was the opposite of the husband/wife expectations in terms of roles, it worked for us. Basically we each did what we were good at and liked and we divided the rest. In my current living situation my sister comes home from work and spends an hour or so working on the yard-with no expectation of help from me.  She does it because she loves it, and she knows I don't. This is the way life should be, overall.

And so it goes, this week in retirement.  Coming up next, a review of Maleficent, and update on may treating the knee, embracing the gray and more!!