Saturday, April 16, 2016

One Retiree's Frivolity.............................

I have a confession to make. I live on $2900 a month, and and this month I may well  spend $250 a month on crafting supplies and fabric related items. In fact, I shopped for fabric yesterday during my errand day, and I plan to order fabric online today.  I also have two summer to fall vacations planned, and more. All on a measly fixed income.  Of course, all this is budgeted and planned for, don't get me wrong. Still, as the title of this blog post says, those and other purchases are what many would consider frivolous by some standards.

Bright enough, you think?

A paraphrase of the old saying goes "show me your checkbook and I'll tell you your values".  I suspect my spending, especially on my errand days, show mine. For most of my life I have been the kind of person who prefers to bundle up her errands for a couple or maybe three times a month. I could say that it's to save gas and be financially responsible. The real reasons are two fold-because I want to keep as many days a week as possible for the fun stuff, and because I don't love to shop, even when it is fun stuff for me, especially in store shopping. As a result I tend to look at stuff online first, and then go into the store. The Internet as a money saving tool is something I could go on about for a fairly long time.

I know other people who are just the opposite, and some who are just like me. Some of my retiree type friends simply love to shop for themselves and others. Some make errands part of their daily and weekly routine, in order to bring structure and force themselves out of the house. I have other things that do the latter. 

I tend to do as many errands in one day as possible, and usually include taking myself out alone (yes, alone I said) to breakfast or a nice lunch as part of the routine. Yesterday's errand run is probably a perfect example of my varied spending, from cheapskate to "I don't care how much it costs".

If you watched me go into the grocery store, for example,  you would know that I am a cheap coupon queen. I have a "price book" as to the lowest price on most things.  While we eat very well, my purchases consisted only of so called loss leader purchases that were within that guideline (chicken drumsticks at 99 cents, with one package being frozen and one being turned into slow cooker barbecue drumsticks for dinner as one example), fresh produce, staples and a few sale items such as Skinny Pop. In other words, all the sale items on the outside aisles with a few extras. Admittedly the extras always include soda, wine and chocolate. What can I say??? Still, when it comes to my costs of groceries, we eat really well on hardly any money.

Yes, those walls are still a dull green, but I am working on it. Ive booked my live in handy guy, when he's free.

Next, I explored the local thrift shop on senior day, looking for storage baskets, checking out the clothing and old linens that could be up-cycled.  I also checked out office chairs, and cool jewelry, and looked to see if by any miracle there were patio furniture pieces. I purchased nothing, but later picked up a like new basket set for my sewing studio for a couple bucks that I found on a Facebook garage sale group. I also accepted a free bag of old panty hose, and two bags of odds and ends of yarn. My mantras are that smart women do not pay full price, one should never turn down free stuff out of hand, that and second hand is often preferable. I then used my fuel points at the lowest price Kroger affiliated gas station and filled my tank (you do know about grocery points and gas, right? And the gift card deals for gas points?)

I also got in a free walk around the mall (even in cold weather, I exercise for free at least half the time, and then use the pool and hot tub as my leg needs them the other times), checked to see if there was a waiting line at great Clips (short hair means tiny bills for haircuts), and made a dollar store list for if I had time (I did not that day).

To this point I sound exactly like the frugal retiree should sound, right?  But wait..............

My next stops were the local quilting store and then the local craft store. At the quilt store, I bought a fair pile of fabric, all at $12.00 per yard. At the craft store I purchased craft store (cheaper) fabric, thread for my serger (so many toys, so little time!), scrapbook paper and paints. Now in truth, some of these things will get put into handmade gifts, crafting supplies for the homeless, stuff around the house like fabric napkins, and quilt donations.  An equal amount of my crafting stuff is simply for "play". Project that may or may not have any use depending on how they come out. This works for me. Some hobbies are productive, some are not. Mine are mainly for fun and personal enrichment, first and foremost.

I then waltzed into a clothing store and bought two brand new cardigans. Without much of a second thought. Somehow I have both patterned cardigans and patterned tops, and the two do not mix, so some spending was in order. Other than that one thrift shop, I did not look further. No consignment shops, no sale flyers. I saw the two colors that I wanted and walked in ready to purchase. Now, it was happenstance that these two items were forty percent off, but to be clear, on this day, I would have purchased these two sweaters at full price, then and there. Sometimes you just have to do it, that's all there is to it. I have a fairly small, mainly coordinated wardrobe.

My last purchase  of the day was made online, but only because I could not find the darned thing in a store, anywhere. I purchased this large, gourmet picnic backpack. While I don't backpack, I do road trip all over the country and on many local back roads (yes, you can vacation on a fixed income). The picnic basket enables me (us) to eat well, avoid fast food places and do so in style. It makes the mainly cheap picnic food and the rest stop enjoyable and will last me for a long time (did I ever share what happened to the other one with you all?).

Thankfully, after running from dawn to almost dusk, I am now free to spend my time for the next week or so and not worry about errands, grocery shopping or other of these kinds of to dos (I also pay my bills twice a month electronically, rather than paying each one when it comes in. Probably the only area in which I am truly organized). Except for a "fresh produce and milk run", I am good to go.

Other people doing errands and shopping will spend money in a different way, and that's okay. To know me is to know that my spending priorities are experiences (travel and otherwise), my creative hobbies, church and helping the homeless, my family (and home) and my health. Things that are less important to me include expensive entertainment and culture (there are so many low cost and free things), gourmet food at home, expensive furnishings and having a showplace house, home ownership and its responsibilities, international travel (until I go back to Germany), costly exercise and grooming options, and more.

Recently Kathy wrote and a couple posts over on her retirement blog about "blow money" and apparently the response was overwhelming (and not all positive). I don't have a blow money category, but I obviously spend on what others would consider frivolous expenses. In my case rather than having a blow category or an allowance as such I (and it used to be we) simply have and have had categories for most personal expense areas. 

In other words, my budget includes housing expenses, car expenses, medical insurance and costs, and groceries and household items. There is also a budget for travel and day tripping, small and occasional home decor and improvements, hobbies, the occasional health related perk such as a leg massage, and a category for church donations and charity projects. When my husband was living there was a category for "sports" (golf, skiing, sports officiating). There was also a personal spending category for each person, with each of us deciding for ourselves what these expense areas could include (if he wanted to include happy hour as a golf expense, it worked for me).

Are all these categories huge and unlimited? Of course not. My recent fabric purchase used up more than one month's hobby budget, let's just say. But they all include some money each month to be spent in these areas, and unspent money goes into a virtual envelope. These days, I also have a small "sinking" category for those small once a year monthly items such as next month's car registration. My own very personal philosophy is that my $300 dollar tax bill and my car registration are not emergencies, and as such should not be taken out of emergency funds or savings.

The bottom line is that there is no one way to spend our retirement, or to spend our money in retirement. We all have personal responsibility to pay those basic monthly expenses such as housing costs, food costs and medical bills, although we have more control over many of those things than we realize. There is no perfect plan though, and there are no guarantees-about how long we will live or much of anything else. For most of us, retirement would be boring and unfulfilling without the occasional hobby, trip, or social event. 

After all, retirement is not an "end" it's a beginning of a new life. One meant to be lived and lived as we see fit as much as possible.  So go ahead, spend all your disposable income on plants and flowers, rebuild that motorcycle, or purchase that sewing machine. You can be financially responsible, live on a budget, and do what works for you.

And so it goes, this April weekend. What about you? Whether you call it blow money or something else do you budget at least some money for those important areas? 



  1. You are right, retirement is not an end but a beginning. I agree with your philosophy of budgeting for expenses, with church and helping others as important. In addition we are members of 4 groups that protect wildlife, here and in Africa. Retirement thus far has been a joy.

  2. We are all frugal in different ways in order to spend where our passions are. I would not have given up our trip to Spain and Portugal for anything. Saved for and paid in cash (of course we used the credit card so we could get money back, but the card was paid off immediately).

    Like you I try and combine errands and only head out once a week to the stores. I would love to be able to go less, but fresh produce only lasts so long.

    God bless.

  3. I don't love to shop either, which is why I do not bundle my errands. I can't stand to go into more than one store at a time. But then, we live close to town, so it's no big deal to make a trip. Besides, I try to do shopping on the way, or the way back, from one of our other activities. I find that's the most painless way. But ... congrats. on your budgeting; I wish we could do as well.

  4. Um....hello....I'm pretty sure that quilt fabric and food fall into the same category - Necessities! Yep, I'd eat Ramen noodles in order to get my fabric fix! I love your solid understanding of what's important in your life! You are absolutely doing retirement right!

  5. I budgeted all my life, using various frugal practices, many times simply glad to have enough to make expenses -- especially when unexpected costs came up. Eventually, I've had "mad money", often not a lot, to spend for whatever might matter to me at that time. I think it's important to find pleasure in what I have. As you say, we each may have different views on what gives us satisfaction, or where we might choose to be frugal and where we might spend a little extra. Sounds like you've figured out what works well for you.

  6. We live pretty well on a budget but have a lot of practice since Ken was a student for many years in our early marriage and I learned frugal ways early on. "FUN" does not seem to be proportional to the money spent.. I find as much pleasure in a long bike ride into the farm-y neighborhood across the street,where I can visit ducks, cows,donkeys and horses, as I would in a more expensive pursuit. A day spent by my own swimming pool, with Pandora music playing and a large glass of home brewed iced tea= bliss. Happy hours with girlfriends almost always take place on our own backyard patios these days,with a bottle of Trader Joe wine and some cut up cheese and crackers. "Blow money"--well,I will not hesitate to take a craft or art class that intrigues me, a few times a year, at a local shop. We do vacation a few times a year, but our most recent vacay was to a small fishing village in Mexico I had found and researched.. we stayed at a quirky fun bed and breakfast for $60 a night and spent $1.00 or 2 for lunch eating local tacos and seafood. We walked everywhere and spent a ton of time in the ocean. It becomes a challenge and a hobby,doesn't it?Finding fun for less and learning how to live really well while staying in a budget..but we all need breathing sound like you've got your priorities straight,Barbara, and I enjoy reading your posts!

  7. P.S. I would love to hear which of your road trips have been your favorite.I'd like Ken and I to do a couple of road trips in the coming year... we live in Az.. I am interested in New Mexico, and also the California coast. I wonder if a car trip over to Florida is too long.. ????


Living With One Car in Retirement-Or Any Time

From 1987 until 1996, my husband and I were a one car family-with one and then two children. In 1997, we inherited a second car. Which ...