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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

Rhythms

Life on our land follows a relaxed rhythm year in, year out.

In July, the lambs were born. Always cute and fun to watch, our relationship with them has been short and sweet this time round – indeed, six weeks after their birth, we wished them au revoir when they were moved with the flock to a neighbour’s piece of land with more grass.

A few weeks ago the man began to source wood from the block for next year’s supply. As I will be retired next winter, the fire place will be used more throughout the day so the woodpile will need to be a considerably bigger than in the past. Luckily, the man enjoys the process of collecting, cutting and stacking wood. It does help that he has great tools for the job with his trusty, newly-serviced chainsaw, and his bow saw, plus all the PPE.

Marmalade making has also begun. This year, I am freezing the fruit so I can make small batches throughout the year.* I have been making marmalade so long that I can make it by eye, rather than by following a recipe – I have come a long way since my first batch many years ago where I boiled it to the point that it had both the look and consistency of toffee. The young me proudly gave the man’s mum a jar or two which she politely thanked me for and never mentioned again!

The spring weather is inspiring us to make long-overdue changes to the orchard and garden. Two apple trees which are past their best are going to be removed, as is a persimmon which has inedible fruit (a mouthful of cotton wool, anyone?). Two other sad excuses for fruit trees will be taken out in the next few weeks. These non-performers are going to be replaced with new trees including the Wilson’s Early plum which we planted yesterday.

The gardens are also having work done on them. The vegetable garden which was all, but abandoned, is relocating to just beside the house. A sunny spot, this should be a more workable location. We will start off smaller than the original one, but will expand it if needed, The worm farm which has been a success from the get-go, will also move closer to the house – again it will be considerably more convenient in this new spot.

This only leaves the compost bin. To date, we have never sorted out how to compost properly. The intention is to move this closer to the house too, and use it as it should be used. Yes, getting a handle on composting is one of the many things on the retirement list.

Lastly: With eight pays to go until I retire, everything is falling into place. Savings are going to plan, and the things I wanted completed are being ticked off one at a time. This month we saved more than we had projected we would, and ticked the three-yearly septic tank clean off the list. I also started an audit on what we are paying for bills – but that is for another blog.

Early retirement: I can’t wait.

*Wash whole fruit, cut into quarters and freeze in batch lots

Ride-on Hassles

For the last few months, the man and our ride-on mower haven’t been getting on. We blame this entirely on the machine which mostly refused to start and when it did start, refused to run for long.

The man would then spend the next few hours coaxing it to go long enough to do our lawn. Our frustration levels, meanwhile, went through the roof and our tolerance plummeted. Wrangling with a recalcitrant ride-on was not how we envisaged life in the country, we both secretly thought.

Which is why we needed to do a rethink about this lawn mowing thing. So we did. And we came up with two options.

Option A was to purchase a brand new mower and continue to do the lawns. The price of a new machine was between $8,000 -$12000. In addition to this, there were the ongoing running costs of petrol, oil, and everyday maintenance to factor in. At some stage in the distant future, this new mower would no longer be new and we would be up for a replacement one too or be back to where we were now – fighting with the mower to get it going. We tucked this (awful) thought into the back of our minds.

Option B was to out-source the task to a lawn-mowing contractor with his own machine. The quote was $100 per cut. We did the math. We could get 80 – 120 cuts for the price of a new ride on. Factoring in the additional running costs of petrol, oil and the maintenance costs and hassles, it made even more sense. At a cut averaging once every 4 weeks, that would be a fair few years taken care of.

Needless to say the winner was Option B. It was way more cost effective, removed the hassle of maintaining a machine and gave us some time back which we can use more productively on the property. It is money well spent.

Meanwhile, we have gifted our old ride-on to a local mower mechanic. It is been used for parts in reconditioned ride-ons.

Lockdown

New Zealand went into lockdown on Tuesday last week. The last time I was in lockdown was for five or so weeks last March/April 2020.

It is weird living in lockdown – almost other worldly. Where we live the traffic is always light; it is now even lighter. Working from home, mask wearing, social distancing, bubbles and sanitizing are the words of the day.

In spite of its challenges, this lockdown has completely removed any doubts I have been harbouring about retiring early. Indeed, it has categorically demonstrated that it is the right thing for us.

The fact is my enthusiasm and self-motivation levels have increased significantly this last week while at home, even though I am working remotely. I guess rolling out of bed at 7.30 instead of 5.45, and the no travel means I am not exhausted by the end of each working day.

Certainly this weekend, besides the never-ending cleaning and washing, I had the energy to finally start stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen, a job that I have put on the back burner for months. I also made bread, baked a slice, went for a walk, and spent quality time with the grandchildren in our bubble. I also managed to finish my book, and start on a new one. Bliss!

Bread – didn’t know if was going to be successful as yeast was old!
Wallpaper stripping – an OK job when you get into swing of it

The garden beckoned too – truthfully, I have ignored it since I started back full time 21 months ago , but this weekend, I rediscovered the itch to get my hands dirty working in it. Pity I ran out of time, but I now know that when I am no longer time poor, I will be out there getting it back into shape. Hallelujah!

Early retirement will mean we have to watch our dollars a bit more, but the man and I have no doubt whatsoever that the pluses of a more satisfying and balanced lifestyle makes this sacrifice absolutely worth it.

Roll on retirement.

Time to hang around the fire pit and toast marshmallows. The teenage grandson camped in the tent.

Putting the house in order

Having publicly committed to retiring in the New Year, I am getting my house in order.

This means making decisions about what we need to do to make our retirement work well for us. I have therefore got a list and a budget – a true Virgo, right?

My list started off with many grand things including recarpeting the house, recurtaining the bedrooms, a new fridge and a tent for copious camping trips. I have subsequently rethought this and the list is no longer an absolute, rather it can now be described as ‘a work in progress’ with items being added, taken away or parked.

The changes I have made are sensible ones, I think. I have decided against recarpeting – the carpet is fine and I am just bored with it. I also want to replace it with wool (it is wool now) and that is not cheap. I will therefore do it in a few years when most of our retirement savings can be accessed. The curtains – well, I have washed them initially in a bit of bleach, followed by a rinse and two out of the three sets are perfect again. The other one? A sad story really that would bring a tear to any house proud person’s eyes – suffice to say, I will buy new ones!

The new fridge? Well, I have purchased one after much research (how big, what make, energy rating etc etc) and it is looking mighty fine in the kitchen. The power bill has also reduced which is an added bonus.

The tent for our NZ trips has been relegated to the ‘decision pending’list. I will keep the $$ aside for it in the budget.

New additions to the list include a cat door with a microchip so our kind neighbour can feed our moggies, rather than every cat in the neighbourhood when we are away adventuring. I have also factored in some maintenance including the three yearly septic tank clean and new glasses for me.

Meanwhile, I am saving hard for this early retirement lark, albeit I am fast coming to the conclusion that we will dip into our savings pot early if required so we can do the things we want to when we want to. Yes, life is short, and we don’t want to live with regrets.

Carpe diem, folks!

PS I have been told I can join the temp pool at the hospital where I work any time which is kind of nice, though at this stage this is not what I see in my future.

Retirement date

Yesterday I gave my boss the news I was retiring. I also gave her my leaving date: 7 January 2022. Yes, I will do the honorable thing and cover the Christmas break as I’d agreed to a couple of months back.

I am feeling happy and content with this decision; it is completely the right one for us.

Meanwhile, the man and I are mulling over the next phase of our lives. At this stage, we have a fair idea of what we want to spend our time on – family and friends’, travel (within NZ while Covid rages, overseas when it has been tamed), hobbies (some old, some new), pottering around our lifestyle block, and giving back to the community. We don’t, of course, know every detail or how it will pan out, but that’s OK, we will be flexible and allow things to evolve.

What we do know is that our retirement is going to be busy and satisfying, and the man and I intend to enjoy every single moment of it.

Roll on 4.30 pm, 7 January 2022.

Shuffling into retirement

The man is now a Gold Card holder and is mighty pleased to be one. For those who don’t know, this means he receives a pension, or as a friend wittily puts it, he is now paid by the Government to breathe.

In relatively recent days – up to November 2020 to be precise – I would have been able to piggyback on his pension eligibility and receive one too if I retired. He, however, turned 65 in March 2021, so this door to early retirement funded by the state firmly closed to me.

When this change in eligibility was flagged, I wasn’t overly worried. The fact was I had only recently become aware of its existence, so I had never factored it into retirement planning.

Which brings me to my plans for retirement. I have plans to retire early. I have a date in mind where I will shut the door on a 8-4.30, 5 day per week job, and it is not too far away. To this end, I have worked out a retirement budget – thank you, sorted.org.nz. This budget is sensible – well I think it is! It reflects the changes in spending that happens in retirement e.g my day to day fuel bill will decrease substantially with no daily work commute, our electricity bill will rise, there will be no need to fund office clothes, even TradeMe purchased ones, spending for local outings, the occasional trip within NZ* and activities will increase. Yes, the budget has been worked out to allow the man and me a good lifestyle, with a bit of latitude factored in for those unforeseen expenses. Of course, the reality is we are not big spenders at the best of times, so that works in our favour, as does being mortgage and debt free.

Ideally, we don’t want to rely on the man’s Kiwisaver (private superannuation) balance* to fund our day to day living costs, but it will be our backstop if required – after all, we intend to enjoy this stage of life! Meanwhile, the man and I are saving as much as we can from our income to help fund the early retirement. We are also working to grow the small hire business we have – if Covid stays away, this should provide a welcome addition to our retirement fund.

Our plans for me to retire early aren’t just about getting the income sorted, we are busy getting our house in order too. This means replacing and renewing a few things: a new fridge freezer (our old one is on its last legs), a touch of decorating, and new flooring in kitchen and hall, plus a new gate to keep the sheep safe are all on the list. We have also upgraded my 21 year old car to a new Kia Stonic – the perfect jalopy for retired us to do our road trips.

After 45 years of working, retirement is just around the corner – and I must say, it looks grand!

*Overseas trips are off the agenda while Covid rages. When we feel travel is safe, we will fund it from retirement savings, rather than our sorted budget!

*I have Kiwisaver too, but won’t have access to it until I am 65. I will continue contributing enough to it to get the Government subsidy each year until I turn 65.

New to me.

Well into middle age, I discovered the pluses of buying second hand.

I remember school friends scouring the charity shops looking for pieces of funky clothing and other stuff in our youth. But I didn’t. In fact, I viewed this practice with horror – I mean, who had worn those clothes, or used that item before? No, siree, buying from a second hand shop wasn’t something the youthful me would be seen dead doing.

So I am totally late to the party discovering the pluses and joys of buying second hand. And as a true convert, I have embraced it and wholeheartedly recommend it as a way to get well made, and unusual things in excellent condition at a fraction of the price you would buy new.

My new-to-me haunts are the online NZ site TradeMe (a bit like Craigslist and Ebay, I think) and the charity shops.

I use TradeMe most often for work clothing. I am very organised about this: I have favourite labels I know work well for me. This means I know the size in each label that fit me and the cuts that work for my body shape. I also know they are well made, and use good fabric that will go the distance. The last sentence is very important to me as I buy items that are a classic cut that I will wear until they fall to bits. I also will buy shoes second-hand. Everything I bid on has to be in very good or excellent condition.

I am not a clothes horse type of woman, so each season, I buy only what I need. This winter I have bought two pairs of shoes (ballet flats and a pair of rollies).

New-to-me Rollies

These are replacements for the very expensive boots I purchased new a few years back and which are busy shedding the thin leather covering on the elastic gusset in a most unattractive and unwearable way. I also bought a skirt (VSSP). All items are perfect: both in condition and fit. This season’s new to me work items cost me $80 including postage. I have two more items I wish to buy for winter: jeans, and a MacPac jacket like my daughter has. I am looking on TradeMe for the jacket, but will buy new when it goes on sale if I haven’t sourced an excellent condition second-hand one before this. The jeans I will buy new.

Which brings me to deciding on how much to pay for an item. Items on TradeMe are sold by auction. Some will also have a buy now price. Postage is on top of this.

If it is an auction, I determine what it is worth to me and set this as the highest price I will pay. FOMO has no place in sensible buying (don’t get me started on house auctions!) If there is a buy now price and I think it is fair, I will purchase that way.

I have mentioned charity shops. The first item I purchased from an opportunity shop was a breadmaker. I bought it second hand because I was not convinced that after the initial enthusiasm for making bread had worn off, it would be used – it was after all a bit of a must-have fad at the time. The $40 price tag, therefore, worked for me, as did the breadmaker which actually did not gather dust and instead gave me many years of use. Still going, I gifted it to someone else when we downsized to move onto the boat.

The man, though, is the main user of charity shops in our family. He scouts them for old tools (hard to find) and for work clothing too. A woodworker, his uniform is plaid shirts and jeans. The shirts often get covered in varnish, stains and glue, so he is more than happy to buy second hand, knowing that they will become rags within the season. Occasionally he will buy a decent item of clothing he happens upon – often they are unworn garments that are other people’s purchasing mistakes. And the other day, he happened on a lovely lamp which now adds a bit of retro style to our lounge.

Buying second hand is not something only Ma and Pa Stone do. My youngest son and his wife are into it too, so for Mother’s Day, I received a set of Temuka Coffee mugs, circa 1977. Found on TradeMe, they match other Temuka I have from back in the day. They are also in perfect condition and I am thrilled.

Second-hand …. one of the best ways to stretch your money (or in my case squirrel it away for those early retirement plans), and at the same time own something a wee bit different. And, of course, the perfect way to recycle and do your bit to save the planet!

I highly recommend it.

Someone else’s problem

Last week the man and I packed the ute tray with ‘rubbish’ destined for the tip.

As we packed it, I thought about a comment I had read that throwing something away doesn’t mean it disappears, it just becomes someone else’s problem.

And looking at our throwaways, I agree. There was old flooring we had removed from our kitchen – this was a product that was made to look like wood but was in truth a cheap plastic (read oil-based) imitation. Over time, it had become chipped and there was nothing we could do to refurbish it.

There were three broken television sets. Two of these had belonged to a relative and had made their way into our dump pile, and the third one was our old one which after 15 years had finally given up the ghost. In addition to this, there were two dead printers from the same relative and my laptop that had died in one of those nasty computer death throes computers are known for.

We still have another load (at least) to go to the dump. This includes a tent that is old and rotten; a life raft and flares that are sporting expired expiry dates, and an inflatable dinghy that has lost its inflate bit.

In the main, the stuff we are dumping has been well-used and kept on life support for as long as we could. The same can’t be said for the expensive life raft or flares which have never been used but were bought for safety reasons and are to be dumped for the very same reasons.

We take some solace in the fact that the televisions, laptop and printers are being recycled, or should I say, some parts are : I have no doubt the non-recyclable parts will join the tent, inflatable, life raft, flooring and flares in the landfill. Here they will become someone else’s problem.

Sunday musings

Yesterday the man and I went to the library to get our fix of books.

Avid readers, it is not surprising that joining the library was one of the first things we did when we moved here.

And we have not been disappointed: our local library has a great fiction selection and a comprehensive non-fiction offering. The latter genre in particular hits the spot with the man who reads across many subject areas, including boating, engineering, biography, crafts, history, and travel. Occasionally, he will add a fiction book to his pile, but not often.

My taste is eclectic too. I read more fiction than the man. I read this purely for enjoyment, so it tends to be light stuff that I can either pick up and put down over the course of a week without forgetting the plot, or alternatively devour in a one-sitting marathon on a wet weekend afternoon. I like a good crime novel, but also read aga sagas, historical novels and some chick lit. Actually I read anything that takes my fancy! Like the man, I also take out non-fiction. This is often related to my latest information finding exercise and can be anything from how to prune a tree to a biography to history,

Which brings me to this week’s choice: I picked up a book* I had reserved by NZ journalist, Adam Dudding, about his father, Robin Dudding, who published the literary journal ‘Islands’ through the 70s and 80s.

I didn’t know Robin, or Adam, but I knew of them as they were a local Waiake family and I had been in the same year at secondary school as the second of Robin’s daughters.

I sat down yesterday afternoon and started to read it. I finished it this morning. It was enjoyable and thought-provoking – the measure of a good book.

My next read is called ‘Faith’ and is by Jimmy Carter. I am not sure how I am going to get on with this one, or the one I have about world religions, but I am interested in the topic. Why? I am working in a hospital where the pointy end of life and death is raw and exposed. Yes, it is often far from pretty, or fair.

But, much to my surprise, I have found many staff who are working with those who are so, so sick have some kind of inner faith. So agnostic me has questioned them and talked to them about what they believe and why?

So I have decided I need to read about it and learn more. And at the end of my reading, even if I retain my agnostic status, I will still hang out with my mate, the young chaplain, as she is one cool woman and definitely makes the world a nicer place!

*’My father’s island’ by Adam Dudding

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