Retirement is really 20 to 25 years of unemployment. That may be a strange way of thinking about retirement, but that’s really what retirement is: loss of a full time job. For me, my longevity so far in retirement has been the Godsend of part time work. Not so much for me but for my better half, my husband. Eventually, however, his part time work will come to an end (as has mine) and then we will really be in the throes of a complete and utter retirement. Question will be at that time: now that we are fully retired, how do we stay that way?
I don’t have an answer to that question yet because I am just finding out about it now myself. With less and less part time income coming in to our lives, I’ve had to scramble and re-adjust our passive income streams to keep this retirement boat floating. I’ve had to prioritize what’s really important to us. What do we want to keep on doing? What can we eliminate and do without? I’ve had to refine our monthly budget to match our new-yet-once-again lifestyle.
One of the biggest accomplishments I made in our budget strategy IMHO, is the control I now possess over our food budget. For us, our food expenses were really budget busters. That’s because I usually paid for our groceries with a credit card and worried about paying off the card in full at the end of the month. Once I switched to a cash-only food purchasing budget, our food expenses dropped dramatically. Even though I had budgeted spending $500 a month on groceries, in reality we spent over $600 a month when using a credit card. By switching to cash, we now spend between $400 to $450 a month on groceries.
The savings we ascertained out of the food category, I used towards my newfound self care. I’m able to get my hair cut now more frequently ($22.50 with tip). I can now afford a pedicure ($18) and I can get my nails done ($9) and my eyebrows plucked ($5). This doesn’t mean I’m going to do all these new self care procedures all the time but it is certainly nice to know that if and when I need some massage time or beauty time, there’s room in the budget now for me!
The next thing I had to fine tune in our annual budget was our vacation category. With reduced funds, we had to re-prioritize which vacation/travel spots were super important to us. At this point in our retirement lifestyle, all we really care about is getting warm in the winter and being by a beach in the summer. This meant longer stays and less impromptu adventures. Longer stays meant our RV-of-the moment wouldn’t suffice. It was way too small and uncomfortable for month long expenditures. So, we opted for a more spacious model, which upped the RVing costs but saved money in the end with less expensive accommodations (you get better rates when reserving by the month vs the week or weekend). We’re extremely happy to vacation 2 to 3 months in sunny Florida in the winter and 1 to 2 months at an Atlantic Ocean beach in the summer.
We supplement our travel bug with less expensive day trips. Every weekend I seek out free things to see and do within a one hour radius from our home. I like being busy. I like discovering new things. I like freebie adventures. These little jaunts satisfy my travel/vacation bug and all things seem to be working out AOK. In fact, I’ve crammed so many things to do that DH is now asking me to schedule in non-to-do days. Staying home has now become a travel experience too!
This is the (free) view DH and I enjoy most, from a park bench we frequent often. I look at the scenery. DH relaxes by talking on his cell phone, LOL!
Another tweak I made to our monthly budget was the elimination of most restaurant meals. While this started to work out for us in the beginning, I noticed that going out to eat wasn’t just a means to have a meal out. It really is a social event as far as our current friends and family were concerned. We joined a new congregation and found out fast enough that after service many folks got together and went out to a local restaurant for both lunch AND socializing. Failure to join them would mean isolation and missing out on friendship bonding. As you get older, having and keeping friends via a social calendar becomes more important. I also noted that if I joined a local Senior Citizen club, they went out to a local restaurant each and every Wednesday of the week! That was their socializing! So, I had to add back at least $100 to our restaurant budget category if DH and I wanted to maintain a few friendships. Yes, they have other social events in their homes, such as potluck dinners but they still go out to a restaurant as their number one social choice.
Lastly, DH and I had to narrow down our hobbies. We were all over the place. Me more than DH, as I was trying out almost everything: knitting, painting, sewing (ka-ching, these hobbies cost money). It’s very important to have a few hobbies in retirement. Granted yes, we both like to cook, garden, read (I download free eBooks from our library and DH and I share reading them), we both like to putter around the house (He does the lawn and home maintenance. I do the daily, mandatory two-hours-a-day home cleaning) You need to specify and concentrate your time into something more specific. DH chose becoming and being a ham radio operator. He studied hard, passed his exams and started a crusade of buying ham radio equipment ($1200). Me? I had to accept the fact that I’m a die hard computer geek and I love to keep up with Apple Inc technology. That doesn’t mean I buy stuff every six months. It just means if there’s a giant upgrade in all-things-technological, I like to be involved in it. I’m very conscious of costs. Nonetheless, my quest for technology keeps my brain cells expanding and growing. For example: I just purchased the latest iPhone 11 Pro ($1029). It was delivered yesterday and I spent seven glorious hours upgrading my operating systems, transferring over data and learning new techniques. My geekish domain includes a state-of-the-art iMac, two iPads, two iPhones, and soon a new iWatch to monitor DH’s heart health……it’s almost like a full time job. DH constantly needs my help desk expertise and I’m always busy learning something new. Currently, I’m going to master the new iPhone three lens camera. Stay tuned!