Monday, April 10, 2017

Motherly Advice.....I tried to show you....

 
We live well. But we don't spend a lot of money living well.
 
We decided long ago what was important to us, and devised a way of including our little luxuries in our life, whilst still managing to save for the bigger ones.
 
That means that now, as we approach a deservedly early retirement, we can continue to live comfortably, without worry and strife.
 
Twenty years ago, when my husband and I first married, we decided what our priorities were. In no particular order, here they are:
 
Have a property portfolio that allowed us to generate an income in our retirement
Travel while we are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it
Provide for our children and grandchildren, and particularly our disabled son
Have a lovely home and garden
Have a beachside home for holidays and short stays
 
We have achieved all of those things, and to this day, we have friends who scratch their heads and wonder how we did it.
 
Granted, we had a successful small business. But despite what people think, 'having your own business' is no picnic. There are good times, there are lean times, there are times when for one reason or another, clients don't pay, or companies go bust leaving unpaid creditors, and we never see our money, or we get cents on the dollar. It can be very, very stressful and takes discipline to make it work.
 
The thing that has got us through, always, was to always live on the least amount of money possible.
 
We don't have new cars every two years, we drive the same ones for ten.
 
We don't spend $400 a week on groceries, if we can feed ourselves well for $150.
 
We don't eat out three nights a week like many of our friends do.
 
If there is a way something can be DIY-ed, we DIY it. Between the two of us, my husband and I have DIY-ed home extensions, painting, floor finishing, furniture restoration, cabinet building and installation, gardening, propagating, landscaping, concreting, paving, dog washing, car washing, cleaning, tiling, grouting, property maintenance, sewing of home furnishings, upholstery cleaning, carpet cleaning, gift making, clothing alterations, baking, carpentry and joinery, high pressure cleaning, growing our own produce and herbs, jam making, sauce and marinade making, celebration cake making and decorating, manicures, pedicures, haircuts and other self maintenance needs, the list goes on. We've been teased, laughed at, made fun of, and ridiculed. We educated ourselves, online, at courses, and took advantage of community classes in everything from Building permits, to Cottage Gardens, to Cake Decorating and Photo Editing. It all made a difference. Whenever we (or someone we knew) needed something done, chances were, we knew how to do it.
 
Meanwhile friends laughed when we couldn't go out to dinner or brunch, because we were learning, or practising, or just plain 'doing'.
 
But who's laughing now?
 
Who's coming to us, and saying things like 'Your home is so beautiful, I could never do this'. 'I could never have imagined that that's how your garden/living room/kitchen hutch (insert DIY project over 20 years), was going to look. I wish I'd done that now', 'I wish we had the money/time/skills to do what you've done'...well...you did, but you didn't want to make the effort, did you?
 
One of my favourites is 'Oh I tried that once and it didn't end so well, so I never bothered again'.
 
Wow. Really? You tried ONCE? Goodness. I tried that 27 times before I got it right. But then I got it right 27 or 270 or 2,700 more times and saved myself a fortune in the process. Trying things 'once' and giving up, is not a recipe for success.
 
You know what? At the end of the day, although ALL of those things we did were important and contributed to where we now stand, there was one thing that was more important than anything else. Here it is...
 
WE DIDN'T TRY TO IMPRESS OUR FRIENDS.
 
It's that simple. Everyone else we know, has spent the last twenty years, spending up big on flash houses in the 'right' suburb, upgrading cars, boats, phones, technology, clothing, handbags, and home furnishings, with alarming regularity, while we made do, shopped frugally, made our own, checked out the thrift stores for any needs or wants before going retail, and maintained all of our possessions judiciously, before upgrading only when absolutely necessary.
 
Many times over those twenty years, I tried to show friends our way of living, and how it could help them achieve their dreams. But mostly we continued to be laughed at and in the end, I just gave up.
 
One friend shopped at Aldi once, and declared it not worth her while to save $50 a week on her grocery bill, if she had to pack her own groceries. A bit precious I thought. That couple are now divorced, with all of their possessions, and including their two beautiful children, divided between two homes. And yes, financial pressures were one of the main reasons for the split. How very sad for all of them.
 
Another declared that she'd never set foot inside a thrift store because they 'smelled funny', but continues to spend up big on antiques for her home. Frankly, they smell a bit funky too.
 
Look, each to their own. And the fact that these people are all still my friends, says something about the ties that bind us, despite our differences on the topic of frugality and finances. I love them all the same.
 
I could weep for them though, when here they are, all approaching their own retirement, with nothing but a collection of Louis Vuitton handbags and label clothing, to see them through. Yes they'll look fabulous, I'll give them that much, but the lifestyle that has seen them spend, spend, spend in order to maintain the illusion of prosperity, will be the one that sees them having to curb that lifestyle significantly in their twilight years.
 
Me? I'll continue to bake, garden, DIY, mend, alter, shop at the thrift store first, make do, make my own gifts and celebration cakes, grow produce and herbs, and generally make a career out of being a homemaker. It's stood me in good stead to this point, so why wouldn't I?
 
And if you need me to show YOU, how we've done it, then this blog is a good reference point for you. I've blogged about all of those things and more. Whether you're 20, 30, 40 or 50, you can start NOW, to plan the life you truly want. Start doing the things that will make a difference. And owning a new designer handbag, and a European car, isn't it.
 
The only person you need to impress is....you.
 
And whatever you do, don't come to me in twenty years and ask me how I did it. I tried to show you....
 

33 comments:

  1. Oh Mimi you're singing my song. We lived in a renovation for twenty years. We only added to the house as we could afford it. We never re mortgaged so that we could have the house finished. Concrete floors in the tropics are not hard to live with. We didn't have ceilings and the sound of monsoonal downpours were the lullaby of my children's childhood. We had just finished the house, which we owned by that time, when my corporate contract was coming to an end. We decided then that that was our time to put the house on the market and move on. The reviews we got from those that viewed the house were amazing. The gardens, chook run and animal yards and paddocks were all made by us but were very well made and maintained. We got our asking price.
    We don't have a property portfolio but a do have a shares portfolio. Between this and Bluey's part pension we manage quite well. We still have to wait and save for most things but day to day life is good.

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    1. Jane, I know we are on the same page on this one! I acknowledge that it's difficult to imagine 60, when you're 20 or even when you're 40. But it really is key to having a comfortable life, and there's really no sacrifice when you get your priorities straight. I have nothing against owning the Handbag, or the Euro Car. But you have to accept that there is an opportunity cost in owning those things. A European car costs the same as a little investment property in the rainforest for holidays, or tutoring for your children in a skill or passion that will last them a lifetime. If you can afford those things, that's absolutely fine. But I see people in dire straits, because they're so busy trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, that they have forgotten that the Joneses move on to greener pastures. Blast those Joneses! I love that we've done it 'right'. The kids all have their passions well into adult life, the property portfolio is healthy, the holiday cottage is safe, and life is good :) Mimi xxx

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  2. Mimi, thank you for affirming what we've always tried to do.
    Like Jane, we don't have a property portfolio, but we did take out super when we first started working (when it was not compulsory) and put a lot of our earnings into that. Now we are able to live a comfortable retirement from this source.
    I do find it difficult when told how 'lucky' we are 'going on ANOTHER holiday' - it doesn't seem that long ago when the same people were saying we were 'stingy' when we preferred to entertain at home, rather than eat out.

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    1. Janine, I think the problem is, that 'retirement' always seems such a long way off, and of course, we all need gratification in the meantime. My strategy, and yours too, I think, is to just make sure that that 'gratification' doesn't interfere with the longer term dream. I've handled it my way, others may argue that buying 'quality' when you're younger, means you have those pieces for decades. That would be fine, if you bought a handful of pieces and made them work for you for decades, but frequently that is not how it works. The fashion industry knows very well that the pressure of 'what's in', overrules common sense in this respect. I have the utmost admiration for the women (or man!), who invests in quality at 20 or 30, and makes that quality item work for them for the next 40 years. I say Bravo to that! But if investing in quality means running out every year to pay financial homage to a certain designer or car manufacturer, then that is a fools game. What say you? Mimi xxx

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  3. I say, more power to you Mimi. I'm sitting here at my lovely old Edwardian school teacher's desk that I bought for $5 at a garage sale about 30 years ago which DH and I restored. I dropped off some donations to our local recycle centre today and the waste really is appalling; electronic gadgetry is the worst of the worst. My gadgetry is used until it dies. DH has retired from work but I'm still working cos I'm not ready to retire yet. We are well placed for retirement due to similar lifestyle choices to yours so I can whole heartedly vouch for everything you've written.
    Janiebabe

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    1. Jane, I have many pieces like your Edwardian desk. The very first purchase I made when I started working, was an antique blanket box with tapestry top. It was $150, which back then was a lot of money, and I had to layby it and pay it off. But it still sits in my bedroom 41 years later, storing blankets and linen, just as it did when I was 17 years old. I've lugged that thing through about 13 house moves, and love it still. I don't think anyone else I know, still has something they bought 41 years ago! That began a lifelong love of antique furniture, but never again did I pay an antique store for the privilege. I learned quickly, as it seems you did, that buying pieces in less than mint condition, and restoring them yourself, was the way to go. We live near the local recycling station, and I couldn't agree more that the waste is astounding. As for retiring, well, you'll know when the moment is right for you. And it sounds like you're in a good position to continue to live well. Thumbs up from me. Love, Mimi xxx

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  4. That was wonderfully written! We don't drive new cars - we have one and it is 13 years old, our house needs some work but we are saving for it, we are age 53 - but unfortunately for us - we had to make some life choices to help our daughter - we had to spend thousands of dollars to help her divorce her abusive husband. We have to provide financially for our two special needs grandchildren. My husband is a stage four cancer survivor - so much money went to those medical bills and is still going to those medical bills. Retirement for us is going to be sparse. But - we are living life "sparse" now, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and my joints are swollen and painful after a long days work - but I go on and am glad I can provide a home for my two grandchildren. I am glad I was never a material person...

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    1. Meme, thankyou. Now it sounds to me like you've spent your money just as you should have. Supporting your daughter through a divorce, and providing for special needs children and a husband who has battled cancer, is just what you do, isn't it. I think in the end, you have to ask yourself whether these choices give you a peaceful heart and a grateful soul, and it sounds to me like that is the case for you. Bless you. There's more to life than material possessions. I hope your arthritis is less painful today. Love, Mimi xxx

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  5. It is so good to have a plan... and it is so good to have few "wants" that are pampered... needs and wants are so different. I don't "window shop" as I think that leads to feeling dissatisfied with what we already have instead of being thankful and content. One big part of thrifting (in any way) is to be content... I have seen families save money on things... only to feel sorry for themselves and their children because that's all they could afford.. that leads to a petulant attitude. If accepted with thankfulness, our children learn to feel blessed, not deprived.

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    1. Gentle Joy, ain't that the truth. I have often stopped my daughter when she spies something she'd like at the shopping mall, and said to her 'but do you NEED that?'. Frequently the answer is no, and she moves on peacefully. I agree that deprivation is not the way. That is why we devised other ways of filling our life with little luxuries. I perfected my baking skills, became a good cook, a passable cake decorator, a keen seamstress and embroiderer, painted my own canvasses for decorating and gifting, we made our own scented candles, studied home décor magazines and defined our own style, making sure that we DIY'd as much as we could. We've never felt deprived, and you're right, that is the secret. I agree that 'window shopping' leads to discontent. We don't do that either. In that respect, online shopping is wonderful. You go online, you buy, you walk away from the computer. There's no passing 32 more shops on the way back to the car! Great observations Joy, thankyou. Mimi xxx

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  6. I admire you. I've lived frugally throughout our marriage, but we've had some major financial losses that have made us have to start over again. I have to admit that thinking of retirement is discouraging since I know we won't have enough money saved. I'm going to start following your blog more closely. Maybe I'll learn some skills to help.

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    1. Laura, we've sustained significant losses in our lives too. Both financial and emotional. Don't tell yourself you won't have enough money saved. Ask yourself what skills you'll need to live comfortably, and make a point of adopting one new skill a year between now and then. If you can raise chickens, grow some fresh produce and herbs, plant a flower garden that can generate bouquets to fill your home with fresh flowers and to gift to friends, sew, embroider, knit, mend, alter, and see possibilities in what others cast off, then you'll live well, I promise you! Mimi xxx

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    2. OH Mimi, you give me hope! Thank you. I do have a lot of skills that have allowed us to live above our means while living within our means. Does that even make sense? So much is in our positive or negative outlook isn't it? I want to be glad and do the best I can with what I have. Thank you again!
      Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

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    3. Dearest Laura...yes just say to yourself...one skill this year, and make it one that will save you lots of money. Cake decorating, photo editing, landscaping, propagating plants to sell, artistic and crafting endeavours of all kinds. They can all SAVE you money, and potentially EARN you money as well. You can do it! Mimi xxx

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  7. Hi Mimi,
    Our famiy has had pretty much the same philosphy about spending. We have done almost everything in our home ourselves, other than a few times, but at our age now we are willing to allow someone else to do some things that we just don't feel to tackle, and that is nice, but like you we have saved a
    ton of $$ doing all of that. I think being frugal is just good stewardship plain and simple. Keeping up with the Jone's is a futile thing, cause there
    is always gonna be someone doing or having more than you, we need only to
    live for an audience of one.....and that would be if God is pleased then we should be too.
    I have always been blessed to be a Homemaker and thought it was a wonderful gift to me and my family. There are always choices to be made because the
    truth is you can not have it all.......even tho sometimes our society tries to make us think we can.......something is gonna suffer if you try that~!
    Thanks for writing all your wise posts, you are a good steward and teacher
    and anyone can learn a lot from you girl, if they are willing to listen or read. Hope this finds you doing well........miss hearing from you, but think everyone is busy in blogland these days.

    Take good care,
    Love and Blessings, Nellie

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    1. Nellie, I know you and I share similar philosophies on this too. We too, are at a stage where we can pay others to carry out some of the more cumbersome maintenance, but overall, we like doing it. There's such satisfaction in a job well done, and the money saved. I did not always have the luxury of being a homemaker. I lived for nearly 10 years as a single parent (even when I still actually had a partner!). So I value the opportunity to adopt what I believe was my chosen path all along. I love it, and want others to see how much difference you can make to your family by being a capable homemaker. Thankyou for your lovely words Nellie. You are always a joy to see. Mimi xxx

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  8. What a wonderful post, Mimi! I agree with you completely. My husband and I have also lived our life on the very frugal end of the spectrum. However, it wasn't adopted until we'd been married a year and we married late in our 30's. We often talk about how much we wish we had started in our 20's when our earning power (& energy level!) was much higher. I credit our frugal lifestyle for opening up a lot of doors for us. The biggest one was being able to save for a house 16 mos. after we got married. (of course, if we'd have started separately in our 20's, we could've done even better!). Our friends were going to Hawaii, cruising, etc. and our big night out was a vanilla cone from Mc Donald's after work on Friday night! But, we bought a small beautiful home that was 1/3 less than its original price because of a market tank and it had been a foreclosure. It was the perfect storm that we could not have expected, but the true *luck* was that we had money when it happened and could act on it without hesitation. The house had been on the market for less than 24 hrs. That house provided us with a great bunch of memories and when we sold it 10+ yrs. ago during a peak market, it gave us the financial springboard we needed to move to another state with a lifestyle much more to our liking. Los Angeles to Kansas is quite the difference...in a great way for us.

    Your post reminded me of what Dave Ramsey says, "Life like no one else so you can live like no one else!" Lots of truth in those words.

    My husband has always worked in social services with disabled adults and it's a fact that most of society treats these people as unimportant. It's evident in what they pay their teachers, caregivers, etc. (that's a whole 'nother soapbox!!). But we have managed a nice, if simple life on the small income. I'm content because I have no doubts that he is exactly where God wants him to be as he is so dedicated. We'll never be rich or probably even middle class, but life is good, ya know? I'm glad I'm not the type that doesn't whine over simplicity! I'm the one who cheers a good curbside find and will spend an hour on Pinterest looking at how to repurpose an old item if I can't think of something myself.

    I hope there's a young person out there that reads your post and *gets it*. It'll change their life in an amazing way!

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    1. Debby, I think we all find our moment in time. I agree that a frugal lifestyle can open all sorts of doors. Ones you may never have imagined. You did spectacularly well saving for your home, and of course buying at 'the right time' helped. BUT as you say, you were only in a position to do so, due to your lifestyle choices. Well done you! I love Dave Ramseys quote...so relevant to this topic. My son is disabled and we have close ties with the disability services sector, so I hear you on that as well. Bless you both for bettering the lives of people with special needs. Mimi xxx

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  9. Dear Mimi,

    I hope this comment shows up, as mine often don't as blogs since I have to post as "Anonymous". But I absolutely love your blog, and especially the "Motherly Advice" articles you write. This one is lovely and really speaks to me as we are just getting to the end of our mortgage (in just a few months) and are really starting to see our savings building up after years of only being able to save a small percentage. Our kids are growing up, and things seem to be easing up, since we've tackled and eliminated all our debt (except aforesaid mortgage), and all those little things really do add up!!! Great encouragement.

    Love, Jen in NS

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    1. Dear Jen. Thankyou, and I'm pleased you find my Motherly Advice useful. I think you can be so very proud of being close to finalising your mortgage. That alone gives you so much freedom. It's such a good feeling isn't it, to see all those years of frugality, finally paying off. Love, Mimi xxx

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  10. I found your blog through Annabel's. Thank you so much for posting this. Your encouragement and acknowledgement of a frugal lifestyle and the WORK that goes into it is refreshing! Our family's have really liked passing judgement on our decisions as a couple. "Why would you homeschool when you can send the kids to school for free and get a job to improve your circumstances? Why do you stay at home instead of work part time? Why do you scrimp to pay for music lessons and then drive 1.5 hours each way (said while they enroll their kids in every sport,costing $$$)? Why do you keep buying and driving those old beaters? Why don't you get a JOB?" Then "How can they afford to take those 6 kids on vacation?" Because of our priorities. We WANTED to homeschool our kids, so we live on one income. We want to give our kids a chance to learn a skill that will last them a life time (playing music) instead of playing a game they will never play again after school. We scrimp and save instead of me getting a job so that our quality of home life is better than our quality of home. We can afford to take our large family on vacation because we live below our means and save up for a vacation! Thank you all so much for the encouragement!

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    1. Dear Sarah. You must feel like it's all a bit of an uphill battle sometimes. It sounds to me like you have a grand plan, and that it is working just fine for you. At the end of the day, and dare I say, at the end of your life, 'opinions' won't matter a whit. What will matter is the love you've showered upon your family, and the opportunities you'll have been able to offer them because of your choices. That is what is important. Well done you, Sarah. Keep it up, and don't be discouraged. Love, Mimi xxx

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  11. Beautifully said, Mimi. I especially like the idea of learning one practical skill per year, it makes it seem doable and I'm sure that the skills accumulate quickly. I also like Gentle Joy's comment about being content. That is important.
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Thankyou Amalia. Yes just one new skill every 12 months. It makes a difference. And contentment is key. I agree. Love, Mimi xxx

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  12. Wow..sounds kind of bitchy don't ya think?

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    1. Sorry Anonymous but what exactly do you find bitchy? I have scoured each post and find nothing offensive

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    2. We all take ourselves with us *sigh*

      Anonymous (surprise, surprise) I do hope you get some new glasses soon because yours seem have lost their rosy glow required to see the positives of being self-sufficient, making do and using our talents.

      Well done on now reaping the fruits of all your efforts over the years Mimi :)

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  13. Mimi, I too get asked 'how do you manage it, going away and not working?' Well I too 'frugalise' in the kitchen, with my wardrobe and with my time. Right now I am wrapping up an itinerary for our days in Portland, part of our 8 week road trips doing the west Pacific Coast and some of the western interior. Whilst being frugal here at home, we most certainly do not stint on good quality food and wines. For me personally it means doing without my own car. I would much rather spend the money travelling! :) Lynda

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    1. Lynda, it's interesting what you say about not doing without the finer things in life. I couldn't agree more. It really is about saying to yourself 'I'd like that cappuccino and cake, but I'd really rather fly to Singapore for a week'. It's not deprivation, it's prioritising. 250 twice daily cappuccinos at work for a year, at $4 each, is an astounding $2000!!! On coffee? Really? Make your own coffee and see the world, I say. Likewise we shun inexpensive takeaways and café meals, preferring to work on our own cooking skills relying on lots of yummy fresh produce. Better for the waistline, much more tasty, and kinder to the budget. You sound like you're on the right track to me :) Love, Mimi xxx

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  14. Well said, my friend! You have a mantra that is near and dear to my heart! Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without! I am very confident you have found the key to success!

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  15. Oh wow! I really enjoyed this heartfelt and smart post. My hubby and I are in our 50s. We've never spent to the extent that others do but we could do better. You are very inspirational. :)

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  16. I'm a giverupperer. Well,I used to be, now I'm going to be a learner and a doer because there are things here that need improving on and we don't have the money for them. I'm also going to go back and read you from the start. You have great sense but you're right. If we don't read/listen the do there is no use wondering and whining later on. Thankyou.

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx