Mr_Dollar: a trip of nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the introduction of Decimal currency in NZ

Blogging, I have found, can often drift into areas which in normal circumstances wouldn’t be aired publicly. Writing honestly brings with it some risks; there is often very little context and misconceptions could easily result.

I have a fear that I may have come across as being a worrywart, or horror of horrors, preoccupied with money.  By way of explanation, to achieve our dreams of reducing our working week, while ensuring the man and I enjoy a decent lifestyle, requires judicious planning, hence the need to get the monetary side in order.

Now this shouldn’t be too onerous for us – we’ve had years of practice in this field. This is due, in part, to the fact that neither boat builders or librarians would ever make the Rich List on their earnings!  Call it a personality failing if you will, but we do, therefore, prefer to live within our means. This means keeping debt to a minimum and ideally borrowing only for assets that appreciate in value. I would be lying if I said we have always done this – no, we have definitely made our fair share of fiscal errors in the past.

For example, we did have a credit card which we swiped when we ‘needed’ to. And yes, I know that using the facility to the best advantage means paying the balance off in full each month. This is great in principle, but despite the best of intentions, we often found it didn’t pan out that way and for various reasons, we’d not pay the outstanding amount off completely. With double figure interest charges, the bank was definitely the winner and we were the losers! Therefore, it was a no brainer to get rid of the facility and use a debit card instead. As an aside, the credit card companies take the cancelling of a visa card quite personally. Go figure!

I think one of the most important ways we have controlled our finances is to understand what sort of consumers we are and buy accordingly.  We are pretty conservative spenders and  purchase only what we need.  We do our best to ensure that our hard earned cash is spent on products that are well made – nothing galls us more than something lasting 5 minutes and falling to bits. A waste of money, not to mention resources!  My modus operandi is that even if I had a wardrobe full of shoes,  I’d only wear two or three of my favourites. It has taken me a while to recognise this foible and to adjust my purchasing to suit. And what about the man? Well, he has similar consumer habits as moi.

With plans afoot to semi-retire from paid employment within two years, we have used the sorted.org website  to establish a budget for now and for then. This is nothing new – throughout our married life we have always managed our finances this way. The man and I do acknowledge, however, that the forecasting of expenses is more akin to crystal ball reading than science (I defy anyone to work out how much the dentist is going to cost each year!).  It does however raise awareness of how much is being spent and where, as well as identifying areas where we can rein in costs.

There was never any intention on our part to work less if it is going to be to the detriment of the retirement fund. Living in penury in our dotage has no appeal whatsoever. Our aspirations have always been for a comfortable lifestyle. Actually, I think I should elaborate here: working less has always being about working less for someone else. It is not about avoiding working per se, rather it is about allowing the man and I more time to explore other ideas and passions; some of which could potentially generate some money. In an Utopian world, we will make enough from our passions for them to become our income – in reality this may or may not come to pass!

The man is some way along this path already. He has his shed and is busy following his dreams. Having said this, life can throw curved balls and this is what has happened to him. He has been presented with a proposition. I hasten to add that this is of the business kind!  Some context is needed here: the man is the designer of a well regarded sea kayak, the Albatross. This boat was made in fibreglass and kevlar by our company, Deep Creek Kayaks. After an inquiry from an overseas retailer, a local kayak manufacturer has approached us regarding making the Albatross in plastic. There is also the idea that the man will continue to design for them.

Big decisions! If it works out like we think it might, it will definitely provide some of the income required for the reduced working week to kick in.  More thought is needed, but as I write, we think this is an opportunity we cannot walk away from.

Regardless of the upshot of this venture, the man and I will continue to cut our cloth to suit our means. This sits well with us and will help us achieve our aim of the shorter working week within our stated time frame. Twenty months to go!