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?
I recently got back from a camping trip to Clear Lake over in Manitoba and it occurred to me that some of you might be wondering what exactly is the point of a vacation when your retired? Well the reasons vary a bit but I’ll try to touch on what I think some of the obvious ones.
First off in our case, my wife still works so she actually really does want a vacation each summer. Also frankly if I looked after kids all day every weekday during the year I would need more vacation than she takes. After all one of the major purposes of a vacation while you are working is to take a break from the stress of work. You know the entire relax and recharge idea.
In my case, I don’t really need a break from the stress of my life (frankly there isn’t that much to escape from), but I still enjoyed our vacation. Why? Because it is a break from your everyday life. It’s a chance to see new things and enjoy some time with those you are traveling with. I enjoy it because it is a break from my everyday sort of life which I think is important for everyone regardless of if your retired or not.
Now the other thing about being retired and traveling is you actually have some additional options open to you because you don’t have a set amount of time you can use for vacation. Effectively you are more limited by your travel budget than your vacation time. Which means you can take an option of renting an apartment for a month or two if you want and really spend some time in the region of the world where you are vacationing in. For example, if you wanted you could pick a country in Europe and make it home base for a while while you check out a number of countries near by. Alternatively you can split up your time and spend a few weeks in several spots or what ever combination of things you want to do. Like I said, your options are more limited by money than time.
Of course, I’m not there yet. My wife still has a business to run so we typically limit ourselves to two weeks during the summer and another week around Christmas time. Also a lot of our vacations tend to involve camping as it is something both us and our kids like to do so we don’t actually spend all that much money on trips most of the time. But of course we do make exceptions like a few years back we did a big tour around the East coast of Canada where we took a month off and we are planning a trip to Disney coming up next year.
So what do you like most about your vacation?
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?