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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
Our tractor is now starting. It also sounds like something that would be at home on a battlefield.
We know, however, that with a bit of adjustment to the distributor (an nth of degree, apparently), it should/will be running sweetly again.
So how did the man get it sorted? The answer was through my last blog post ‘Tractor Woes’ which resulted in two readers who were mechanics shaking their heads in disbelief at our ‘replace likely stuffed parts until it goes’ approach. And not only did they shake their heads and roll their eyes, they decided to give us some advice on how to diagnose the problem a wee bit more efficiently!
And damn me, using these experts’ expertise was the key, and we now have a tractor that is showing signs of life!
Our feelings at the time were a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because she had been ours for ten years and we had had some fun times in her. Relief? Well, relief was due to a multiple of reasons, but the primary one was that for the last four years we had not used her as we should, and we felt guilty we hadn’t!
No, the poor old thing had sat on a mooring in Parua Bay growing weed (not the illegal stuff, by the way) and getting used by the (insert the rudest word you know here) swallows as their home and ablution block. None of this was pretty.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, in the last couple of years the Mediterranean fan worm had infiltrated the bay and every unsuspecting hull floating there had been under attack. This resulted in the Northern Regional council employing dive teams to check the hulls and work out a remediation programme for each contaminated vessel. Once the programme was completed, the boat was then certified and allowed to go into other marinas and areas (no waterway wants fanworm to take up residence!).
The first year we got notification we had fan worms, we had to pay some divers to remove them from the hull; this last year we dealt with them when the boat was hauled for maintenance.
So there we have it, our lovely boat was unused and deteriorating and costing us quite a few $$. The sensible solution was to sell her. This is, of course, easier said than done: boats are notoriously hard to sell. Indeed, we had had a couple of attempts previously with no joy.
We were, however, determined to sell her this time around. Firstly though, we needed to get her looking cared for and loved again. She was hauled in June last year and the man set to work to get her up to scratch. Over a four months period, he worked week days upon her. This included replacing some rot, painting her topsides and antifouling her hull. Our sail cover had fallen to pieces so we commissioned a new one of these. The engine required some work so a marine engineer was employed to do this. Parts were shipped in from overseas.
With hardstand fees and maintenance costs, getting her up to scratch was far from a cheap exercise. We also couldn’t add the cost of this to the sale price of the boat and had to absorb this expense- no surprises there, it is a boat, after all! Luckily, the man’s labour came gratis.
When she was nearing completion, we popped her on NZ Trademe (for overseas readers, this is the NZ counterpart of Craigslist or ebay, I think). We wrote the ad carefully – we pointed out her amazing cruising history, including being part of NZ Peace Flotilla that went to Mururoa in 1995 (see Steinlager ad on NZ TV at the moment), her circumnavigation, her gun running story, and the link to the book about these adventures.**We also pointed out her live aboard potential.
We priced her well – that point between so dear as to be unrealistic and so cheap one wonders what is wrong with it! Within a couple days of putting the ad up, we had had a few nibbles. We had two lots come through her, and both wished to buy her.
We sold her for less than we asked. This is par for the course, and is the cost we were willing to pay to move forward. We thought it was worth it!
We also sold her to the best possible people ever. A young Australian couple, they are intending to head to the northwest coast of Canada with another couple of boats and settle there in a couple of years.* Meanwhile, they are living aboard her with their husky and cat during the week and heading out most weekends and holidays exploring the Hauraki Gulf. We are following their adventures on social media.
Every time we drive past the mooring where Te Kaitoa sat for the last four years, the man and I no longer need to look and check her out. She is, after all, in Little Shoal Bay, Auckland, where she is being looked after, used and loved as she should be. A perfect ending for us and a perfect beginning for them.
Safe and happy adventures on Te Kaitoa, Tash and Pat.
*We have been invited up to Canada for a sail when they get there. We do intend to take them up on their offer.