Category Archives: Happiness

Picking Up Hobbies & Retirement

Given my nearly year off from work now I can say one of the downsides of having more time to do things is you keep finding new hobbies to try out. (Yes I know, damn retiree problems. 😉 )

For example, the cover image on this post is a set of 14 model trees I built over a week for use in our D&D games.  I really didn’t need the trees but I found a video on how to make them.  They looked interesting and I decided to give them a try.  Of course, I could have just bought some trees from Amazon but instead I got the project materials (which is why I ended up broke for the second half of this month) and built them from nothing more than some dowels, scrubbing pads, a can of expanding foam, paint and flocking (the green stuff on the bases and the trees).

Well guess what, I was right.  I did enjoy making them and I’m very happy on how they turned out.  The downside of course is now I have a list of other projects I want to try and make for additional terrain items to use on our game. Ugh, crap now I have another hobby in retirement.

The problem in retirement so to speak is you have more time than most so spending like ten hours on a new project really isn’t a barrier anymore.  Unlike when I was working and that amount of time would cause me to pause before trying out something new. While trying something new can of course be fun at times.  The downside is you can forget to work on things you really should be working on and lose focus on your other hobbies.

In the short term this isn’t a particular problem.  For example, while working on the tree project I stopped watching movies and TV shows except during the evening while I was basically waiting for stuff to dry.  But it can evolve into an issue for example, if I stopped working on my new book and got sucked into crafting other things.

So a trick I use is setting a weekly ‘to do’ list that includes things that I MUST work on to keep them moving along.  Case in point I set a goal to write at least 250 words a weekday on my new book project regardless of other things.  Of course that goal is flexible I can craft trees for two days and spend three writing the word count target for the rest of week on the book but the end goal is the same: that I don’t lose focus on longer term projects.

The method isn’t perfect but I find it does help a lot to keep things moving along which is main point.  So how do you keep working on a big project while new hobbies are trying to distract you?  Please share what works for you.

When You Are Temporarily Broke

So for most of this month due to a series of circumstances I’m abnormally broke. Well not really broke, I still have all our investments but I have spent most of my spending cash already this month. I’m currently under $2 in cash on my person and I have no further plans to get cash until the start of next month. Which to me isn’t that big of a deal. I’ve been here many times before by choice and I’ll be back here again some time in the future.

The issue is that some people don’t know how to deal with this state of being.  How exactly do you live your life if you don’t have any money to spend on a coffee out, going to a movie with some friends or getting a snack while out during errands?

The solution is actually very simple: focus on what you can do and plan ahead. You see people often get into habits with spending money so being broke for a few weeks is good reminder to myself that I can in fact have a good life without spending any money. It really isn’t that hard but it does take some adjusting.

The first adjustment of focusing on what I can do is the easiest for me to do. So this means I look at my current hobbies and purposely focus on the ones that don’t require any additional money. So for example, I previously had picked up some yeast and have some fruit in the freezer so I can make a batch of wine with what I already own. Or I can use the crafting materials that I recently picked up to make some terrain trees for my D&D game. And I can finish up a few books I’ve got borrowed from the library and also finish watching those two seasons of TV shows I’ve also borrowed from the library on DVD. Then finally I can finish off some research that I’ve been working on and start writing my sequel to Free at 45. So in short, I’m not lacking on things to do.

The second part to dealing with being low on cash is to simply plan ahead. This isn’t difficult to do but does take a moment of thought. For example, if I’m planning on being out of the house for the majority of the afternoon I need to remember to grab a snack prior to leaving the house and make sure I have a full water bottle. That way when I need a drink or get hungry I’m ready to go. Or if I want to have supper with a friend I would make sure to invite them to our house and cook with what I already have in the house. So if I have shrimp in the freezer I’ll plan the meal around that rather than chicken if I’m running low on that.

I really don’t mind being broke for a few weeks as it does help me to recall it is okay to make do with what you already own. We often get so caught up in getting the next thing on our want list we can forget to bask in what is already at hand. It almost creates a sense of gratitude for the life I already have when this happens to me.

Then finally I keep an ace in the hole: I know I can cheat if I really need something. Not want, but need. So if my shoes fall apart and I can’t make do for a few weeks I can always buy a new pair on the credit card and pay that back next month. I really avoid doing this but it does put my mind at ease that the option exists.

In summary, I don’t mind choosing to be broke for a few weeks. It helps me remember that most of life really isn’t about the money. Happiness is possible with very little and I find it good to remind myself of that periodically.

So what tricks to you use when your are short on cash for a week or two?

You Shouldn’t Fear Spending in Retirement

I was chatting with my wife earlier today and I mentioned that I was a proud of a something relatively minor in my retirement so far:  I don’t obsess about our spending.  I also don’t ignore it either.   I keep an eye on our spending but I don’t sit down every month examine every dollar in detail.  Instead I keep track of the big picture – how much we spend over  a year and not so much about a given month.

My wife’s reply was to the point “You better not care about every single dollar you spend or what was the point of retiring in the first place?”

She is right of course.  If you have to worry about every dime you spend in retirement it won’t be a fun life regardless of having all the extra free time.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post that every retirement budget needs something: slack or buffer.  Or excess spending dollars or what ever you want to call the concept.  The point is you NEVER want to retire on a shoestring budget with nothing extra in it.

I know when you are saving for retirement there is a temptation to reduce spending as far as it will go to get to your early retirement sooner.  Which honestly that isn’t a bad short term exercise so you know what the shoestring number is but often a short term dip in spending can’t be sustainable in the long run.  Why?  People often will push off replacement of items and make due.  Which honestly can work just fine in the short run.  It just can easily start to fall apart over a long period of time.

For example, I bought a new weed trimmer this morning to finally replace the one I originally bought with our first house over 12 years ago.  Why?  Well the line feeder started acting up during the end of last season.  So this year I just made do the first few times I used it but then the plastic guard with the line cutter broke off.  Now it was just a pain to use the old weed trimmer and while it sort of did the job but only with a lot of hassle and screwing around with it.  So avoiding replacing it would have just ended up costing me a lot of time and frustration in the long run.  Rather than do that I looked for a new one and found a cordless battery powered weed trimmer on sale and bought it this morning.  I already love not having to drag out my extra long extension cord to trim the lawn after cutting it (my previous one was a corded model).

So for a cost of less than $100 I managed to replace my old weed trimmer and also do a small upgrade by going cordless which makes me much happier since I can accomplish the job faster than using my old one.

In the end, I wasn’t afraid to spend the money and I ended up with something better for me in the long run.  That is because our budget includes some slack for the things that do break down over time and need to be replaced.  You can’t predict where these will occur so you best to just add in a buffer or slack to your budget to account for it.

So how do you deal with the eventually replacement of things in your home?  Do you keep a set dollar amount or percentage of budget for your buffer or just use your actual yearly spending with those one off items in it?