Minimalism; decluttering

Why this baby boomer is going minimal.

white flowers in bloom
Photo by Louis

What minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorites so that you can strip away the excess stuff- the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities that don’t bring value to your life. – Colin Wright

Over the past several years, I’ve been slowly getting rid of excess stuff and clearing off counters.  I’ve never been a fan of clutter, but this new found love of clear spaces has been life changing.

I did another de-clutter over the long weekend.  It’s been easier knowing I could actually sell some of the stuff.  There is always that guilt when you know you’ve spent good money on an item you are de-cluttering.  However, after playing the minimalism ‘game’ twice this year, it’s getting a bit harder to find things to get rid of and I’m finally getting to that place of enough.

However, as Colin Wright points out, minimalism is much more than just de-cluttering stuff.  It’s about keeping those things, experiences, and people in your life that add value.

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise
Photo by Asad Photo Maldives

As a late baby boomer, I’ve experienced the height of consumerism both in 80’s and 90’s.  I spent more time and money on buying bigger and better everything. And I had the credit card debt and loans to prove it.  It had locked us in to the 9-5, leaving no choice to do anything else.

It’s taken me a couple of decades to figure out that having bigger and better doesn’t equate to happiness.  Besides stuff, I’ve been able to let go of toxic relationships, activities that do not bring joy and the fear of missing out. (FOMO, yes, it’s a thing).  What I’ve come to realize is that the time and experiences spent with the ones I love bring me the most joy.

And, as I say goodbye to my excess stuff, I realize that the only regret I have is that it has taken me this long to realize that less really is more.

 

Budgeting, Retirement, Retirement Journey

What does a retirement budget look like?

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Photo by Alexander Mils

A big part of our journey to retirement is figuring out what our future costs will be.  Some of this is guess work, but we generally have a good idea because there is a short amount of time before we retire.  One of the best things I’ve done, in my opinion, was plan our retirement budget and live on it NOW.  I initially wrote about it here, but have changed a few things.

Here is our monthly retirement budget with our real numbers. (Instead of HealthCare, we pay a mortgage, HSA, and LTC insurance).

Health Care/HSA  $                     3,000.00*
Utilities  $                         250.00
Homeowner’s Association  $                           80.00
Cell Phone/Cable  $                         265.00
Taxes (Personal & Property)  $                         600.00
Insurance (Car, Home, Umbrella)  $                         200.00
Home/Car Maintenance  $                          500.00
Charitable Giving  $        To be determined
Groceries  $                         550.00
Eating Out  $                         100.00
Household  $                         100.00
Gasoline  $                         200.00
Personal Care  $                         150.00
Clothes  $                         150.00
Gifts/Christmas  $                         300.00
Personal Spending  $                         200.00
Travel $                          750.00
TOTAL: $                       7,395.00

*In retirement, $3,000 will come out of a separate investment until Medicare kicks in at 65.  We will be taking social security at 62, 67, which will give us another $4,500 a month.  This should *hopefully* more than handle the medical portion of our retirement. That leaves a monthly budget of $4,400/mos. or $52,800 a year.

As you can see, I’ve kept in a sizeable monthly amount for travel.  It is something that is important to us, and I wanted to budget for it.  Of course at any time we may fall short, this will be the first to go.

Retirement advisors will tell you that you need 100% of your present day salary in retirement.  I disagree.  In retirement, we will no longer be saving for retirement, taking care of children, paying for college, etc.  By living off of my ‘proposed’ retirement budget now and not spending more, it’ll be easier for us to make the transition.

This amount may seem high to some, and low to others.  I know my parents, who are in their 80’s, live on MUCH less and they are very comfortable.  When they were in their early 60’s they traveled a lot, and used up their retirement accounts.  But my father worked for AT&T and has a great pension and social security to get them through these years.   I believe our spending will go down once we reach our 80’s as well *God willing*.

I will keep evaluating the budget (and our investments) as we get closer to our target retirement date.  Based on the numbers today, we are on track.

How does your budget compare?

Goal Setting, Retirement

Our 5 Year Journey to Retirement

lose up photo of green flower
Photo by Vraj Shah

In about 4.5 – 5 years’ time, my husband and I plan to hang up the 9-5. We will be 60 and 62 respectively.

Saying goodbye to a steady paycheck can be a bit scary, but having the freedom to do things on our own time, while we are still relatively young, is intoxicating.  We will, of course, need to save a bit more and plan a bit more before we actually make the move.

Here is what we currently have:

  1.  HealthCare.  Good healthcare costs will be upwards of $30,000 a year before Medicare kicks in at the age of 65.  We currently have a Health Savings Account (and plan on keeping it!) that we contribute the maximum amount ($8,000) to every year.  This tax deductible account will cover deductibles and our long term care insurance.  Health insurance is the bigger nut to crack, and something we will research extensively.  We could use my husband’s firm COBRA for the first 18 mos, or private health insurance. We also have an investment account of $137,000 (the amount is an estimate, and could possibly be more) that I will receive at age 62.  We plan on pulling from this account to pay for our health insurance until Medicare.
  2. Retirement Account Growth. At the present time, our 401Ks and Roth Accounts stand just shy of $1.2M.  It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride over the past several years, but it’s also been a steady climb.  We do not have a pension, so this, along with social security, is it.  We will be contributing the maximum amount over the next 4-5 years, so conservatively we believe it will grow to at least $1.7M.  Obviously we won’t touch a good portion of that so it can continue to grow over the next 10 -15 years, giving us enough to last our whole lives.
  3. Downsizing.  Since healthcare will, in essence, match the cost of our mortgage, it is imperative that we own our home outright.  We are not in a position to pay our current home off in 4 years (see #4), but we plan on downsizing and have no mortgage upon retirement.  Besides being mortgage free, we like the idea of lower utility bills, lower taxes and less to take care of.  The unknown at this point will be where we decide to live.
  4. A healthy cash stash.  By living well below our means, over the next 4-5 years we plan on having two years’ worth of living expenses in cash.  We hope to use this so either our retirement accounts can grow a bit longer, or use during a down market.  Of course, you know me.  I believe in balance and that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we still will be taking vacations and having fun during this time period. 🙂
  5. Social Security. {UPDATE}  After learning more about social security benefits, we will both take our benefit at age 67.  I will be two years ahead of my husband, so part of it will start on Year 5 of our retirement.

Of course, you all know the best laid plans can go awry, but this is what we know right now.  I will be blogging about our retirement journey here in this space, (and hopefully be a bit more consistent. 😉 ).  I hope you will join me.

If you are retired, or planning to retire, am I missing anything??  Please share!

 

 

 

Budgeting, YouTube

YouTube made me buy it.

May I just blame my recent (and not so recent) spending on YouTube? LOL.  But really.

apple blur business communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Over the past several months, years, I’ve been enjoying watching videos on YouTube.  I’ve even made a few friends.  BUT.  It comes with a price.  A HUGE price, in my case.

What am I talking about?  Some Most YouTubers share purchases.  Some are really, really convincing, and because I like them, I trust their opinions and I end up ‘thinking’ I need the item as well.  I didn’t wake up in the morning needing that particular item that they are sharing, but by the end of the video (sometimes during), I go the website and click, click that item is on it’s way to me.  Some of the items I’ve purchased have helped my life tremendously.  Revlon One Step Dryer and Volumizer comes to mind. (I’m not sharing the link…I don’t want to add to the problem!) But others?  Not so much.

The phrase “YouTube made me buy it” is not my own.  Other people are feeling the spending urge from these influencers.

But I’m better than that.  I know I am.  I’ll just need to put some distance from the triggers.  I’ve decided to give up watching YouTube videos for the next three months to see if my spending changes.  There will be some exceptions, i.e. Daily Mass, but other than music, spiritual guidance, I won’t be watching.  Podcasts will be my new go-to.  Blogs and reading.  I’m sure I’ll find other things to do to fill up the time as well.

Sorry YouTube friends.  I’m unplugging.  I may or may not be back.  We shall see.

Are you influenced by what others share purchases online?  Let’s have a conversation in the comments.

 

 

Budgeting, Goal Setting

No Spend Year: Cancelled

white apple keyboard near white cup
Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

As a reader so aptly pointed out, trying to have a No Spend Year when I’m clearly not ready to stop spending money is setting myself up for failure.  On the surface, she was right.   Setting unrealistic goals is never a good thing.  It leads to guilt, self deprecation and the all around feeling of failure.   And, if you take the words ‘no spend’ literally, you don’t buy anything.  However, my “No Spend Year” wasn’t literal.  It was supposed to be a  “….no spend on mindless stuff that doesn’t matter and doesn’t help me meet my goal year“.   But if this reader thought this, there may be others who feel the same way.  I don’t want to come off as inauthentic, so I decided to clear this up for everyone.

My original post about a No Spend Year included this paragraph:

To be clear, this challenge isn’t about deprivation. It’s not about sucking the joy out of every day. It’s the opposite. It’s about spending money on what matters most – my health and wellbeing, my husband, my family, my friends. In fact you may be surprised as to what I actually am able to spend money on with this challenge, which makes it very different from what a typical ‘no spend’ has been.

As long as I continue to be mindful of my purchases (and not have to declutter them in six months), I will be keeping my goals intact.  Simply put, I will not feel guilty for buying a purse or anything else that makes me happy and doesn’t take away from goals that I have set.   As long as it meets my criteria of an intentional purchase, I can pay for it, and not have to borrow money, it will be acceptable.  The purse was somewhat of an impulse purchase, I’ll admit, but I never said this year was going to be perfect.  Baby steps.   It did stay in my cart on the Fossil Website for a week.  I still wanted it, so I purchased it.  Next time I’ll wait 30 days. 😉

Going forward, I’ve decided it’s best not to use the term ‘No Spend’.  I agree that it’s too confusing, and doesn’t convey what I intend.  So it’s out.  (In fact, I went ahead and corrected all of my other posts).

I hope this helps.

Happy March everyone!

 

 

 

Budgeting

February’s Huge Mess.

white and black desk calculator on white graphing paper
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yeah well.  The best laid plans.

It was a rough month.  Lots of money was spent.  (Thankfully we had stashed cash in our savings for just such expenses.  No debt was incurred.)

Here goes:

(Not included: regular, every month expenses including food/eating out and gas)

Home Maintenance ($11,604.00)

  • Unexpected new attic insulation (because of pest infiltration): $4,700.00
  • Tree(s) removal: $1,500.00
  • Outside Wood Replacement/Paint/Powerwash: $3,300.00
  • New cooktop/installation:  $2,000.00
  • Kitchen paint: $104.00

Home Furnishings ($596.89)

Household ($79.94)

  • Paper towels, laundry detergent, bath salts, strainers

Gifts ($418.39)

  • Birthday gifts
  • Valentines Day (I splurged on sending Edible Arrangements to our parents..worth every penny!)

Personal Expenses ($130.00)

  • Fossil Purse
  • Flowers
  • Stickers

Clothes ($167.00)

  • StitchFix Subscription
  • Macy’s
  • Mix/Match Subscription Clothes Service

Misc. Expenses ($1,675.78)

  • Ben’s emergency vet visit (he’s fine. 🙂 )
  • Away Luggage
  • Federal Taxes (although we owed money this year, we still saved $3000 from the previous year)
  • Cleaning Service
  • Car Maintenance

Out of Pocket Health Expenses ($851.72)

Thoughts on February’s expenses:

It’s been a month.

Home Maintenance:  Our pest control company came out and did a yearly inspection.  We’ve been having problem with mice, but we had no idea how bad a problem.  Our attic has been their home for a while.  In order to fix the problem, we needed to remove all of the attic insulation and install new insulation as well as seal all entry points.  $4700 was the “discounted” price.  The positive side is that our new insulation is supposed to be of higher quality, and will significantly reduce heating and air conditioning bills. We shall see.  Tree removal and outdoor maintenance has been ignored for a couple of years, but it could wait no longer.  And, of course, our cooktop. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I can’t wait to be able to turn on the burners without pulling out a lighter.  We spent more than we had anticipated, but fell in love with the 20,000 BTU burner.  Boiling water will be so.much.nicer. 🙂

Home Furnishings:  Because of the bad air flow in my daughter’s bedroom, we purchased a heater (in the shape of a fireplace 😉 ).  Money well spent, as her room has been toasty warm.  We are also getting new furniture for our living room, and decided to use the furniture store’s designer.  All designer fees will be taken off once we purchase the furniture.  Money was spent intentionally, which is always a good thing.

All other expenses are self-explanatory.  The cleaning service is a necessity at this point.  I’m having an issue with a pinched nerve, leg and back pain so it makes it difficult to properly clean the house.  I’ve found a woman who can help me out, so again, money well spent.  Clothes subscription services were a splurge, I know.  But it’s just so nice to try on clothes at home, clothes that have been ‘picked especially for me’.  We shall see how long this lasts….

I’m still having issues with buying purses and wallets.  Fossil was having an amazing sale I ‘couldn’t’ pass up.  Not mindful at all, so I’ll call that a fail.  However, the AWAY luggage purchased this month completes our set, so I’m happy with that, especially since I was able to sell other luggage we didn’t use.

In conclusion….

I’m not gonna lie.  This month was way more expensive than I would have liked.  I know I could have done better.  Hopefully all of the major expenses are behind us, and March will be a catch up month.

How was your February?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budgeting, Cruising

How much does a Caribbean Cruise really cost?

Over the past two and a half years, my husband and I have taken six cruises.  Yep, you might say we had caught the cruising ‘bug’ and went a bit crazy.  Our first cruise was in November, 2016 to the Western Caribbean and our most recent cruise was this past November to the Southern Caribbean.  We’ve cruised the Eastern Caribbean twice, and took a cruise from NYC to Canada. (It’s amazing how much money gets freed up when you are done paying for college! 🙂 )IMG_2627

My husband and I had a blast on these trips.  They were amazing.  But they weren’t cheap.

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We’ve discovered that there are many ‘hidden’ costs to cruising — everything from insurance, gratuities, and drinks to hotel stays, excursions and airline tickets.   In fact, my mind was blown when I realized I could have hired a cleaning lady every week for a year for the price we paid for one week in the Caribbean on a cruise.  Ouch. 

Below is a typical budget for an 8 day, 7 night Caribbean cruise on a mid priced cruise line for a balcony cabin for two.  I’ve included air fare and a one night hotel stay, because it’s always recommended to go a day early just in case something happens with your flight.  (The ship won’t wait for you.)  If you can drive to the port, lucky you! 🙂

 

A Sample Caribbean Cruise Budget

8 days, 7 nights – Balcony Cabin MidShip on Royal Caribbean’s  Harmony of the Seas in April.

  • Cruise for two/taxes:  $2,800.00
  • Gratuities ($14.50x2x7): $203.00
  • Insurance for two: $400.00
  • Roundtrip airfare for two (Coach): $1,100.00 (from DCA-MIA)
  • Hotel in Fl.: $150 – 250 (mid range)
  • Uber/Taxi/Tips: $50.00
  • Meals in Fl.: $50 – $100
  • Specialty Restaurants: $100 (You will want to try one of them, trust me)
  • Excursions: $100-$300 (This is on the low side if there are more than 2 ports)
  • Drinks on ship: $200 (This is what we’ve spent for sodas, water, mixed drinks)
  • Misc. tips: $50-$100
  • Spending money: $250-$500 (depending on how much you like to shop and/or gamble 😉 ).

                           TOTAL:  $6,103.00

(I haven’t included all the clothes, accessories, luggage, etc. you purchase before you go on the cruise, so figure another $250).

Are you shocked?  We were.  We usually pay for everything separately which gave us the illusion that the trip cost less than it actually did.

Of course you can cruise less expensively.  You can choose to cruise off-season.  You can cruise with another less expensive cruise line (i.e. Carnival).  You can drive to the port, get an inside cabin, never take an excursion, never eat in a specialty dining room or never purchase a souvenir. You can skip the insurance and stiff the help by not tipping.  Or something in between.  Your trip will still most likely cost $2,000.00 – $4,000.00.

So, is it worth the price? Only you can decide.

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For us, it was.  The time spent together and the memories that we made will be cherished forever.

The only difference is that now (since we know the true cost of cruising) we are being much more selective with our future cruising plans.

If you have cruised, please share! Did any expenses or the final cost surprise you?