Orchids and Other Stuff

When you no longer have a job, it is tough to find a reason to get up every morning. What is it about work that defines us and why is it so difficult to replace that purpose? Enter the hobby.

Orchids

I bought Orchids for Dummies nearly 10 years ago with the thought of giving orchids a try. A couple of years ago, we bought our first orchid. We now have several and we would buy more if space allowed. Contrary to common belief, they aren’t difficult to grow. Like all plants, they have their preferences for water and light and, if you get those right, they do very well.

orchids2

Growing orchids, or any other type of plant, is a hobby worth pursuing. So is woodworking, crocheting, building model airplanes or dozens of other pursuits. I truly believe that the quality of your life is improved by having hobbies.

Orchid

Now in retirement, our hobbies are particularly important. It provides a bit of incentive to get out of bed each day.

Check these links for some really good hobby ideas:
A Huge list of Hobbies
A Massive List of Hobbies

Advertisements

Frugal? That’s Funny

When did being careful with money become the fodder for jokes? How did frugality become defined as cheap? Aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice?

Too many people view being frugal as being a cheapskate. Television programs that showcase people who take the idea to the extreme reinforce that notion. The difference between frugal and cheap couldn’t be more clear. To be cheap is to focus solely on the cost of something. To be frugal is to focus on the value of what is being purchased. Sometimes the least expensive option also provides value, but not always.

I was speaking to a friend about an event that was held in another state and why I decided not to attend. When I added up the costs-the fees, hotel, meals, and airfare-I didn’t see enough value to be derived from attendance. She listened to my reasoning and determined that the reason I didn’t attend was that I couldn’t afford it. That wasn’t true, but she didn’t understand the difference between not having the money and not seeing it as a valuable expenditure.

Determining value is at the heart of frugality. Of course, we do things that save money but that’s only on the surface. I save money by making my own laundry detergent. I’ve also eliminated lingering fragrance on my clothes and I’ve reduced the amount of trash I generate by reducing the packaging that I toss out. For anyone who has to pay by the number of bags of trash they put out each week (luckily, that’s not us), this is a double whammy of savings. There is more value to homemade laundry soap than just saving on the cost of washing and that’s at the heart of frugality.

Returning to my original premise, why is actively saving money not a revered practice?caution

“Economy is the art of making the most of life.”
–George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)–

You would think that those of us who are retired, or close to retirement, would heartily embrace frugality. Alas, it is not always the case.

Baby Boomers are ill-prepared for retirement. According to TD Ameritrade, in their 2012 study Boomers and Retirement, 74% of Boomers are $500k short in their retirement savings accounts. Those who think Social Security will make the difference may be surprised to learn that the average benefit check is slightly more than $1200 per month. No one is going to live large on that. Couple that lack of savings with consumer debt and the picture is even more grim.

Can we blame it all on poor planning? A study done by National Center for Policy Analysis found that 59% of Boomers are providing financial support to their adult children, including providing living expenses, covering medical bills and paying off loans. The stars that lined up to create an economy that made this so prevalent are still being debated, but it is certainly a drain on resources in a time when Boomers need all that they can get.offspring

Many Boomers had parents and grandparents who lived through the depression. There seems to be some idea that we don’t have to employ the lessons in economy that those folks learned. Maybe that explains some of the dismal economic circumstances surrounding our generation. Thrift is a way of life and shouldn’t be reserved only for hard times. It makes those hard times easier to live through and we’ll all be better off.

Perhaps we should be quietly thrifty. Use frugal ways to get out of debt, supplement savings, acquire the money for luxury purchases, become a stay-at-home parent, or retire well. When those who would ridicule frugality notice, let them laugh. Bet they won’t, though. They’ll be asking how you did it.

Changing Life, Changing Work

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Retirement doesn’t always mean work stops. That’s the quickest way to the rocking chair and once you are there, can the grave be far off? The question is: Do we want to continue in our current job or do something else?123

Life must have a purpose and working provides that purpose. This is something I’ve struggled with since my sudden retirement. What can I do now? Maybe I should ask “What do I want to do now?”

Certainly, there were some things that are now off the table. The space program doesn’t want a gray-haired grandmother. The Metropolitan Opera actually wants someone with a beautiful voice. Who knew?

If you can foresee a change in your future, here is some information to help you along.

How to Change Careers from the Wall Street Journal

Finding the Right Career–from The Help Guide.org

Tips for baby boomers wanting career change–from the Tampa Bay Times

How Boomers Can Reinvent Their Careers–from Fox Business News

Cooking Like a Copycat

A few years ago, we decided that eating at most restaurants wasn’t really worth the money. Yes, it was nice not to cook. Yes, it was nice to go out, but the food wasn’t the central focus of the event. Of course, restaurant meals are no way to cut the food budget and, if it isn’t good, why bother.

Copycat recipes can replace the food that is missed by cooking at home instead of eating out. Last week, I tried one of my husband’s favorites–Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I tried to follow this recipe, but I didn’t have everything listed. I had to make refried beans and, of course, they don’t taste like those from a can. I didn’t have the specific taco sauce called for in the recipe, so I used what I had on hand. I’ve never had a Jack-in-the-Box taco, but I thought they tasted fine. The expert, my spouse, said they tasted fine but were nowhere near the real thing. I guess I’ll have to go out for a taco dinner to know for sure.

Buddy

If you miss some of your favorites, there is a recipe for just about any restaurant dish:

Dipping Into the Dumpster

The Learning Channel has a show called Extreme Cheapskates which showcases how people save money and live cheaply. It’s intriguing how many ways people employ to save money. My objection to this show is that it is done in a way that pokes fun at them. Maybe some go to real extremes and do things that most of us wouldn’t do, but that doesn’t suggest that there is anything to laugh about. I guess these people are freaks to the producers of the show. Saving money is nothing to be ashamed about nor is it freaky. Earning money while saving money is a double whammy!trash

Trash picking has been around for a long time. I’m sure most of us have, at one time or another, picked up something that was left as trash. There are some who take dumpster diving very seriously and use their finds to furnish their homes, supplement their incomes and put supper on their tables. I hope to never have to search out tonight’s dinner at the bottom of a dumpster. That’s taking trash picking to a level I’m not willing to explore.

A lengthy article on Wired, “The Pro Dumpster Diver Who’s Making Thousands Off America’s Biggest Retailers,” showcases one person who found the benefits of dumpster diving by accident and turned it into a lucrative sideline. At first, he used the items he found for himself and later discovered there was a market for many of his finds. According to the Wired article, Americans dumped 251 tons of trash in 2012. There’s no reason to believe that the amount has decreased in subsequent years. So, is picking trash a possibility for supplementing retirement income?

Being an extreme tightwad isn’t on my radar but maybe I could be persuaded to take a peek into a dumpster. Wikihow has a complete How-to get me started.

Hold on for the Ride

tricycle

I saw Easy Rider when I was 16. Of course, you were supposed to be 17 to see it without an adult but, oh well. I got in any way.

It was a great movie then. It spoke to teenagers. It tried to showcase the alternate lifestyle that Hollywood thought we all aspired to achieve.

The movie was on television recently and I watched it again. Have I changed that much? It was lame, at best. The dialog was bad. The acting was bad. The plot was too predictable. My how our tastes change with age; all the things we thought were cool aren’t really cool at all.

You can’t go home again. Nothing is the same and never will be. Somehow we think that while our life has moved on, some things will be the same.

Have you ever reconnected with an old friend? Thanks to Classmates and Facebook, I have found people from high school and even a few from junior high. In all cases, once you get past the “what have you been doing for 40 years,” there isn’t much to say. Life went on, and I wasn’t in theirs for decades. The memories of our time together, if they still exist, are fuzzy. They didn’t stand still waiting for me to return.

So now, I think that life should be all about new things. There are more years behind us than ahead, so why waste any of it? New experiences, new skills, new friends, that’s where I’m going.

New things have to include the possibility of living on less money and that means changing things we do everyday. I’ve already begun to do things differently but, as the day of complete retirement approaches, I need to step up my game. Retirement looms. It’s ominous. It’s not for sissies.

Complete retirement means the day my husband finally bids adieu to his job. Not only does his paycheck stop but we face the demise of the benefits, too. Don’t get me started on the state of health insurance now. It’s one of the biggest hurdles to retiring before 65. But, that’s a discussion for another post.

I’ve lived frugally for decades. I started out of necessity when I was young and money was scarce. It became habit and I continued throughout life but I never truly embraced all I could do to save money. It’s easier to pick a product off the shelf but it’s better to make your own.

It’s unlikely that anyone can jump into total frugality all at once. It takes some experimentation to find the solutions that will work for you. Not all will. Experiment freely. You won’t be out much money or time.

Ease into frugality. Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one area to work on and find solutions that work for you.

Cooking from scratch
DIY cleaning products
DIY health and beauty products
DIY garden care
Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without

Not all efforts will work for you. Just because a cleaning solution gets rid of grime doesn’t mean that it will be the best answer for you. If the ingredients are hard to find or include something that is irritating, that’s not going to be your answer. Find something else. I’ll show you the things that work for me but a quick Internet search will find dozens more answers.

This is fun. This is cool. Try it. It’ll be a great ride.