After years of constant saving, practicing our own version of frugality, checking how the stash of money is growing, reviewing this against the amount we need to take early retirement and counting the days until we can give up the day jobs, how does it now feel to be spenders rather than savers? Apart from my [very] ad hoc income from travel writing and the low return on our savings, our household now has no income. We are relying completely on the money we have saved until our pensions start to roll in [the first is still three years away and it isn’t until 2024 that we will have sufficient pension income to cover our living costs]. Spending this money is what we were working towards after all and last November I wrote about looking forward to spending all the money. How does that reality feel? Having spent years living well within our income, what is it like having little income and watching our capital dwindle? Have we become spendophobics or even spendoholics?
Some people are wary of spending beyond their income in their retirement. They have become so used to living within their means, that is their income, it can be hard to adjust to spending those savings. These people do not dip in to the savings they have accumulated for that retirement and become spendophobics and don’t necessarily have the retirement they would have wanted.
Well folks that isn’t us! It seems that having that money in the bank doesn’t define us and we are not scared of spending it; retirement in our 50s is exactly what we were saving the money for. Our years of frugality have made this a habit and we still practice caution in our spending, regularly checking that we are within our budget of £27,000 for this year [although it has been a funny sort of year up to now we are well within target]. Each month we transfer our ‘spending’ money in to our bank account as if it were income and this helps us budget. Those frugal years have helped us to be careful spenders in our retirement but our outlook and plans mean that we are now spending the money on enjoying that retirement and we don’t suffer from ‘spendophobia’ [of course, we have no choice, with no pension income we have to spend our savings]. We have a plan [a spreadsheet of course] for how those savings will gradually disappear to almost zero by 2024 [the contingency money might remain if we have no emergencies and if I am honest I do sort of hope there might be a bit left as I think our budget is generous]. I am finding that watching that plan work through is as satisfying as I found seeing those savings build up. We were conscientious savers and now we have become conscientious spenders.
We have been clear about what makes us happy and what we want to do with our retirement. Much of that happiness involves travelling in our campervan. This is so much fun and gives us so much pleasure [the recent incident has really highlighted this] and we don’t intend to miss out on our dreams just to keep more money in the bank and leave our son with a big inheritance. We know that life is short and are only too aware that in twenty years time [if we are lucky enough to live that long] we might not want to travel in the same sort of way [but we might] and so we are spending the money now while we are fit and able, not hanging on to it like a comfort blanket.
Apologies for the over-use of parentheses in this post! My normal writing style will / might resume next time.
It is a fact of life [in the UK] that our walking shoes get muddy. Cleaning our walking shoes isn’t the favourite job of either of us but it helps if you have the right tools for the job. I recently needed to replace the simple suede brush we had as the bristles were wearing down. I found this Kiwi Suede and Nubuck brush in the supermarket and despite it costing more than I expected I decided to see if it was better than the brush I was replacing, as it claimed to have more and better features.
This Kiwi brush is plastic and retails at around £3. Kiwi recommend that the shorter rubber bristles are used for nubuck, the longer bristles can be used for removing soil in crevices and the shaped plastic edge can clean seams.
I found it didn’t work quite like Kiwi proposed. After walks on sticky chalk soils and the thick clay of the Yorkshire coast our shoes were heavy with mud. After each trip we left them to dry for a few days and then tackled the cleaning. The longer bristles worked the same as any suede brush and got a lot of the dried mud off the shoes, along the seams, the sides of the soul and the top. The difficult bit of cleaning walking shoes and one where I hoped this tool might help is the grip pattern on the sole. For walking shoes to provide good traction a complicated grip pattern is designed by manufacturers, with many narrow crevices that get packed full of mud that dries to almost concrete. In addition small stones lodge in these crevices and need removing. Suede brushes cannot shift this mud easily and I usually end up seeking out a twig or a metal skewer to clean out the sole. Instead I tried using the curved plastic edge of the Kiwi brush. This did tackle these areas quite effectively but after only using the tool twice for our four shoes the plastic edge is showing significant wear; Kiwi don’t claim that this is what the plastic edges are designed for but if the plastic used was tougher it would work well for cleaning the soles of our walking shoes.
As this tool will be worn out very soon I will go back to an ordinary suede brush and a metal skewer to remove the soil from the grip on the soles of our walking shoes, as I really can’t justify the expense and waste of resources involved in buying a new plastic brush every six months.
Now we are both here we are finding this retirement life pretty good. As with our pre-retirement life, we are continuing to live frugally [that is within budget], stay active, get out and engage with the world and generally enjoy our lives. We are also trying to remain relaxed and content by adopting a strategy of doing just one thing a day. So far we have slipped in to doing two things just occasionally but the policy mostly applies. Below is a list of our activities and spending on additional activities in the last week:
Day one – We attended a political meeting [free].
Day two – We bought day passes for the bus [£4.50 each] and went for a countryside walk.
Day three – We got free tickets for a play through the wonderful Show Film First and we went to the matinee because we can, walking there and back.
Day four – We walked in to Manchester to spend a book token Mr BOTRA had received for his birthday. While we were choosing books, the book shop had a fire alarm and we went for a drink while we waited for it to re-open [£3.30].
Day five – We joined a shared lunch with friends and drinks for a friend’s birthday in Manchester in the evening [two things]! [Public transport £13.20, drinks £23.60].
Day six – A guided visit to the interior of the lovely Ordsall Hall [£3 each]
Day seven – We went to see the Manchester United Reserves under 23 team play against Tottenham Hotspur. Entrance is free and the crowd of a few hundred [the capacity of Old Trafford is over 75,000] watched Manchester United win 3-2. We resisted the temptation to buy any of the over-priced refreshments.
So we spent a total of £55.10 [less than £8/day] on getting out and about this last week, this might be slightly unusual as we don’t celebrate birthdays every week [but we really enjoyed going out to the pub] and this amount is well within budget and has been so much fun. We have learnt more about our local area, met some people with shared political views, enjoyed some culture and sport and kept very active. Roll on more weeks of retirement!
I not only write travel articles for MMM I also read it from cover-to-cover. Consequently, when I read the advice from Terry Acreman regarding fitting high-pressure tyre valves to your motorhome (August 2016), I marked the page and promised to do something about it when we had time. The weeks passed by and the valves remained on the list, until we eventually had time to tackle this. I contacted Tyresave, as recommended, and purchase five high-pressure tyre valves [one for the spare] and then booked our Renault Master in to National Tyres in Manchester for the fitting. The appointed day was sunny and as Manchester city centre is just a 15 minute stroll along the canal from National Tyres we thought we would combine the valve-fitting with a leisurely coffee and a visit to a photography exhibition we wanted to see.
We hadn’t even licked the cappuccino froth from our lips when the phone rang; it was National Tyres to say they couldn’t find the wheel brace. This wasn’t surprising as it is under the bed; feeling it was too complicated to explain, Mr BOTRA volunteered to walk back while I made a start on the exhibition. About 20 minutes later, while I was unhurriedly admiring the photographs, my phone rang again. Having arrived and retrieved the wheel brace, Mr BOTRA was on his way back to the exhibition and the tyre fitter was now ringing to say that the first tyre was off and he could see our ‘van was already fitted with good quality high-pressure tyre valves!
Re-united we both returned along the [now very familiar] canal to pick up the ‘van feeling somewhat shame-faced that we hadn’t realised what sort of valves Renault fit on their ‘vans. The National Tyre’s fitter was very cheery about the whole thing and, to make us feel better, explained that they had only recently started seeing vans fitted with these valves. National Tyres didn’t charge us anything and Tyresave took the valves back with a generous refund so only our self-respect was lost.
Walking along the wide expanse of Fraisthorpe Sands was easy as we headed north towards Bridlington. I meandered along the beach doing a spot of beach combing, finding beautiful stones and shells, watching the oyster catchers feeding on the shoreline and a flock of sanderlings flying in formation. A group of three horses were ridden through the waves and wind surfers were enjoying the surf. We explored the old look-outs that had slipped on to the beach as the soft clay erodes. A beach is never dull. After hot chocolate in Bridlington we returned, now walking in to the wind and I was bent over to avoid the wind in my eyes. I found a discarded plastic bag in the surf and filled it with plastic bottles and other litter as we got closer to the ‘van.
Earlier in the day we had stopped at the village of Rudston to see the stunning tall Neolithic monolith in the churchyard and the graves to Winifred Holtby and the MacDonalds of Sleat. We had camped in an idyllic small site south east of York, no facilities or electric but a view of a small lake. We had watched a group of tufted ducks diving and moving purposefully as we had breakfast.
From Bridlington we walked to Flamborough Head, the path hugging the line of the cliffs. Showers rushed in as we reached the lighthouse and we sheltered in the cafe before going down to the sea. The white cliffs were shining and stunning after the rain and we watched two seals bobbing n the bay. Following the cliff path to North Landing we spotted elegant gannets flying in formation over the surf and guillemots, fulmars and kittiwakes lined up on the cliffs. Another shower came in and we were lucky to just catch the hourly bus back to our campsite.
After an evening of rain, clear skies came and we woke to sunshine. We drove to Pickering and Cawthorne Roman Camp. The ditches and banks of this vast site on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors are impressive. From here we followed paths through woodland, fields and moors on a nine mile walk, much of our route on the Tabular Hills Walk, an intriguing name that comes from their distinctive table-top shape.
Our trip had taken us through swathes of snowdrops and bright daffodils just starting to flower but it was a mammal that made me really feel like it was spring. It was the first day of March while we were away and that morning we spotted our first brown hare of the year gracefully lolloping around the field we were camped in. These fast-moving and beautiful animals came to the UK with the Romans and are always joyful to watch. For me the March hare always feels like a real herald of springtime.
There are not many things we will miss about work and there are certainly not many perks to working in the public sector that we will no longer benefit from. But there are a group of guys Mr BOTRA works with who we will miss enormously. His workplace workshop engineers have always been willing to use their technical and engineering skills to help us out with our latest DIY project [no matter how batty] involving the campervan or the bikes. When we needed a metal plate to protect the worktop from [further] damage in our old Blue Bus they found a suitable piece of scrap they had discarded in a corner, cut the metal to the size we needed and gave advice on how to fix it. In our new ‘van we couldn’t find anywhere to put the hanging knife rack we had used in the Blue Bus. It was this team who came up with the a foam knife rack design that fits neatly in to our cutlery drawer; again constructed from a small off-cut, this not only keeps our sharp vegetable and bread knives safe it is also lightweight. On another occasion we decided what we really needed was a small container that just fitted in to the narrow space between the end of the worktop and the back doors to use as a waste bin. Who did we call? Yes, you guessed it, a visit to the workshop with a rough sketch was all it took and a few days later a beautifully constructed box of precise interlocking pieces was created from some small and spare bits of perspex that would have just found their way to landfill.
There have been other examples over the years when these guys have helped us out and there are many things we couldn’t have done or we would have had to pay dearly for without them. As well as practical help they are also willing to give sound advice based on their workshop experience that is better than any You Tube video. When we were unsure how to deal with a mis-behaving screw in the ‘van they had a great solution and a seized up bicycle part is just a challenge to these colleagues, bouncing ideas off each other as to the best way to free the parts.
This team of engineers have the skills to come up with these ideas and access to materials and tools we don’t have. We are very grateful for their help and like to show this in some small way. We could spend money on chocolates or tins of biscuits for these saviours but as frugalistas we say thank you by doing something we do have the skills to do; to show our appreciation for their help we bake them biscuits and cakes. Every now and then Mr BOTRA will pop some homemade treats in to a tin and take them in to work for their tea break.
We will certainly miss their expertise and willingness to give any of our projects their consideration. In just a few weeks time we will be on our own [with just You Tube to help] with our DIY projects.
In 2009 and 2010 Mr BOTRA and I went away on a later life gap year. Gap years weren’t fashionable in the late 1970s when Mr BOTRA graduated and I went straight to work at 16-years old; taking a gap year wasn’t something that working-class young people did. So between us we had never really spent much time when we weren’t in education, working [or looking for work] or being the carer of our child. In 2009, after saving up loads of money, selling the house and downsizing and buying a campervan, we gave up our jobs and took off for mainland Europe for a year living in that campervan. We had a ball on what we called our ‘Big Trip’ and the fun times were recorded on our blog. The gap year refreshed us and we were lucky enough to find employment when we returned . Of course, if we hadn’t blown a load of cash on our gap year we could have been retired by now but I find myself wondering how important that year travelling was and if we would have made the leap into early retirement without the gap year?
What with one thing and another the gap year cost us a bit more than the savings for one extra year of retirement. If we had done without the year away and carried on working and saving, we would have reached our target last year and now be twelve months in to retirement. But that would have meant waiting seven years before getting the break and the truth is that I have an impatience to do things sooner rather than later and I worry that opportunities might disappear. This anxiety and need to take action means that I am not a procrastinator. When you have seen a parent die in their 50s you learn that putting things off can lead to regret and I prefer to take my chance. Mr BOTRA is always the more cautious one but when we returned from our year away we both felt pleased to have done it; we knew whatever happened no one could take that year away from us.
So the gap year was fun but I am sure that without the gap year we might not be about to retire now. Without the year away we would not have been so sure that retirement [still in our 50s] is the thing for us anyway. The year away from full-time work made us braver, stronger and more sure that we wanted to stop work as soon as we could. After spending a year away living in a campervan we knew more about what we were capable of and felt confident that we would be happy doing it together. The gap year helped us to formulate our plans for early retirement and financial independence. This clarity of the goal we were working towards made it more likely to happen.
Fingers crossed we will both have a long and happy retirement over many decades but if that isn’t how our story goes then at least we took an opportunity when it was there and had that year away. Now roll on retirement!