December 16, 2016

To Everything There Is a Season

2016 has been a year when we decimated parts of our budget. As someone who has lived with a strict budget since my first years in college (was that really 49 years ago?), I am a firm believer in knowing what I spend and staying within the lines. 

Last year was when my share of my parents' estate started to find its way to into my accounts. By early this year I was feeling quite flush. With even more money to come over the next 4 years before the estate is closed down for good, additional cash flow was on the horizon.

Betty and I have always lived well beneath our means. One of the reasons we were able to retire 15 years ago was the habit of carrying no debt beyond a mortgage, and saving 20-25% of our income each year. We have played it close to the vest; there have been plenty of splurges for vacations with the kids, but we never ignored the income/outgo realities. Well, this year not so much.

Call it pent up demand, a realization that if not now, then when, or just never having the resources so readily available, but our budget for vacations and trips went out the window...way out the window.

Let's review: renting a house for the whole family 3 blocks from the beach in San Diego for a week around the 4th of July, taking a 7 day Alaskan Cruise, putting 5,000 miles on the RV during a 7 week long trip as far east as North Carolina, RVing in Show Low, spending a few nights in a hotel in Flagstaff and flying to Disneyland for a weekend at The Magic Kingdom with the family.  As you might guess, the financial cost was high, about 300% of what had been set aside on January 1st, not including repairs to the RV.

After the big party come the consequences. The spilled drinks must be cleaned up, the trash disposed of, the scratched furniture fixed, and that hole in the entry hall repaired. If the big party involves expensive travel and experience-gathering, the consequences are every bit as real.

For the last two weeks I have been pouring over the 2017 budget. Betty and I agree that during the coming year we will be much more restrained. We are cutting back on categories as diverse as furnishings and backyard improvements, kitchen cabinet refinishing, our clothing expenditures, and an office redesign for me. The 13 year old second car will continue to occupy one side of the garage rather than being replaced.

Direct TV may go away, especially if they raise the rates again. Much like cable, we watch 10-20 of the 200+ channels available, making the cost per choice rather pricey. Our telephone bill has surpassed our water bill each month. It may be time to find another carrier.

Vacations are still part of the budget, but as a much smaller line item. Long weekend RV trips within 6 hours of our home are in our future for the new year. Two month-long jaunts, cruises, or beach house rentals are right out. 

Looking ahead, 2018 may be a year when we add back some more elaborate adventures. Betty would like to go back to Europe. I would love a cruise around the South Pacific. We may have one more long RV trip in us (and the RV). By showing serious restraint in the new year, our investments will have had time to grow and support a more expansive 2018. 

I am reminded of the verses in the Bible and the song by the Byrds: To everything there is a season, Turn, Turn, Turn. 2016 has been a season of big memories and big dreams. 2017 will turn smaller and closer to home. It will be a season of regrouping, but still a season of our life that is satisfying and fulfilling.









28 comments:

  1. So happy for you and your family that you were able to enjoy such a prosperous year, full of adventure and fun.

    My husband and I were able to enjoy some wonderful times together, prior to his change in health. I'm so glad we did not delay our opportunity to pursue our retirement dreams. While we did not get to check off everything on our bucket list, we made a pretty good stab at it.

    I couldn't agree more: "If not now, when".

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    1. That is the continuing debate: do everything while you can and let the financial chips fall where they may, or be more prudent. I guess we are trying a combination of the two approaches: expansive one year and cut back the next.

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  2. Since you due to your genes probably have a rather long life still ahead of you cutting back may still be necessary. My personal window is likely much shorter than your's so my attitude is different. The best outcome for me is to have a dollar left when I leave this earth. So keeping the costs down is not a priority for me. But due to my frugal lifestyle I find it difficult to spend (ha).

    On the phone costs, up until this October our total cellular bill was about $120 an month which covered our two phones and an iPad. Now I pay $36 for it all. I admit that we don't really use the service much except for an occasional call and frequent text messages between us. We moved to Consumer Cellular which uses AT&T network with a per minute call charge. I don't know your usage but you might want to consider them...

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    1. We don't call much anymore, but do text a lot to our kids and each other. We do need data for RV trips. I see Consumer Cellular ads a lot so I will check it out.

      Thanks, RJ.

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  3. Try project Fios, Google phone system only runs on nexus phones ($150+). $30 for Unlimited talk, text, 1g data. $10 for 1g more, rolls over. Happy customer for 6 mos.

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    1. I will take a look, though both Betty and I bought Samsung phones within the last 18 months so we are locked in for awhile.

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  4. There is a saying (actually called Parkinson's Law), that expenditures usually rise to the level of income, and often exceed it. It looks like you've had good practices in place for years in terms of that law. Budgeting may be a bit like dieting though. Occasionally one blows it, but the smart thing is to get back on track right away. Sounds as if you've done that as well. Besides, look at all the fine experiences you were able to have and memories you created for yourself and others. I had not planned to have a car payment in retirement, but I bought the car a year later than planned to get a newer model and then retired a year earlier as well. When I recently made the last payment, ALL I could think of leading up that time was "Wow, soon I will have X more money to spend!" It felt like liberation. Becoming aware of that though, I've tried to stick to my customary spending habits and let the extra money accumulate, except for some small type purchases. Still it is tantalizing to envision extra money!

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    1. If I can shave a chunk off the phone bill and find a workable alternative to Direct TV, those two steps alone would save about $130 a month - not small change.

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  5. Bob, surveys consistently show that experiences trump "things" with most people. I'll bet that you will look back fondly on every one of those trips in 2016. You can't get that feeling from DirecTV or your phone (although there are some good shows on TV).

    We have spent on timeshare points more than many over the last few years, instead of buying a second home. Have we enjoyed ourselves? You can bet on it. We are able to travel extensively and feel we are very blessed every time we are sitting at the ocean during the winter months. Now I must admit I hate writing the check for the points, but after that remorse passes, we get down to enjoying the fruits of our years of labor.

    Call DirecTV to cut your bill. They will do it in a heartbeat so that will lessen the pain. You will have good alternatives as the industry comes up with new options using your home wireless system. Even DirecTV Now might be a viable option when they get it right. And if you travel for any length of time, like Deb and I do, you can suspend your service two times per year for every account you have. I believe it has to be for a minimum of 30 days, but for long travel it might be worth it. Good luck, Bob, and Merry Christmas to you and Betty!

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    1. I am looking into a combination of an over the air antenna for local TV stations and Sling TV for a handful of channels to replace Direct TV. The only drawback is the loss of DVR capabilities, though Sling has a cloud-based one in beta testing, so that might be coming soon.

      We always choose experiences or memories over things whenever possible. Even so, there has to be some restraint!

      Very Merry Christmas to you and Deb.

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  6. Bob, I have a notion that you wouldn't put yourself in the poor house. Some years you spend more, some you spend less, working on an average. I've heard it said that in retirement you have your go-go years, your slow-go years and your no-go years. The memories you've accumulated will serve you well in your no-go years. You're building relationship with family who will no doubt support you in those no-go years, just as you did with you parents. I find it quite interesting how people are willing (?) to spend whatever it takes to stay connected with devices and watch tv to no end. Going paperless has meant hopping the wavelengths to stay connected; there's certainly a cost in time, energy and money to do that.

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    1. This year was definitely a go-go year. Next year is shaping up to be a slow-go. That being said, the San Diego rental was a spur of the moment choice. We will see how my self control is in 2017.

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  7. We are always encouraged to save for the future (and it's a good thing to do) but when you are retired the future is now. If you don't spend it to enjoy your retirement then why did you save it? As others have said those memories of time spent with your wife and family are priceless. One thing that is always true is that in the end it's not about price, it's about value. I'd say you got a pretty good value for the money spent.

    - David

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    1. Betty and I have chosen to leave our two daughters a decent estate upon our death. Both girls urge us to spend now on what makes us happy and not cut corners. But, what will make us happy in the end is knowing we have made their lives easier. So, it is a balancing act.

      That said, a 28 day cruise to Bora Bora sounds quite nice!

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  8. I am happy to have stumbled upon your site. I am a few years away from retirement, but I hope when I get there, I am able to manage it close to how you seem to manage yours. From what I read, you do your "balancing act" quite well. I am sure once we get to 2018, you will look back and have as fond of memories of 2017 as you do now of 2016. They may be different, but I have no doubt that they will be every bit as good. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Welcome, and thank you, Tim. I try to live the satisfying retirement lifestyle and not just write about it! I have very few regrets.

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  9. Our travel budget got completely blown out of the water this year. But it was because of a new passion. I noticed that we have spent less in other areas of our budget, though. So for next year I'll raise the travel and lower the meals out, or something similar. "If not now, when?"

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    1. Adjusting the budget is the best approach. You have been busy with international trips this year, Linda.

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  10. We had a 'spendy' year in 2016, both travelwise and deciding to finally finish off our basement. We did much of the work ourselves, but the drywall guy and the supplies added up anyway. We're hoping that's our last big project in this house, but home ownership always has its costs. We do love our home, though, and now feel we are using every square foot, so it's a good trade off.

    Re: TV and phones. DH was able to get a Senior Plan at Verizon that costs him $66/mo and has more talk/text/data than he will ever use. And cutting the cord and going to an antenna with Netflix and Amazon Video saved us $1200+/year, although I am also interested in the coming packages that will allow us pay only for channels we want to watch. (ChuckY is right...once we cancelled DirecTV, they've done everything but give it to us free to get us to subscribe again. But we don't really miss it.)
    --Hope

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    1. Funny you should mention the antenna. I just hooked one up yesterday and can receive close to 60 local channels. I had forgotten that local stations have extra digital channels. In fact, PBS has its main channel and 3 additional ones with different and fascinating programming.

      After the holidays I will call DirectTV and see what they will do to keep me. In the meantime I will try Sling TV and Direct TV Now to see what the quality is like.

      Happy holidays, Hope.

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  11. This is our first full year back in our Valley home and we've taken time and dollars to add some decor and upgrades. It's feeling so cozy here that my usual travel urges are not kicking in for 2017. MAYBE a Hawaii trip, but not till mid year maybe... Ken did miss gardening, a HUGE hobby of his, in the mountains and has been busy in the yard and with landscaping too.. we spend tons of time outdoors. I am thinking more local trips this year to the woods/mountains -- it gives Ken the mountain/woods time he needs and we get to hike,kayak, and enjoy what the different towns have to offer. So much cheaper than airfare,too!!!!!

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    1. We are in your camp this coming year: more local or within Arizona trips. After 19 months in our new home, changes to the landscaping in the backyard are on Betty's want list.

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  12. I have always been a frugal person, and that served me well when I was raising my three kids as a single parent. However, the year that my oldest daughter started university and began living in her own apartment, I experienced empty nest syndrome in a big way. I suddenly realized that if I was going to do any big trips with the kids, I had better do them soon or it would never happen as they grew up and moved away. So between 2003 and 2007, we did a family trip to Puerto Vallarta, a tour of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) including a seaplane excursion and kayaking, and a cross-Canada trip in an antique motor home. Amazing experiences, worth every penny!

    Jude

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    1. That is really the dilemma, isn't it. Do you spend now when your health and the family dynamics are right, or space things out.

      I was very surprised when Betty told me a few days ago she'd like to be a homebody for most of 2017. We traveled a total of 11 weeks in 2016, and now she is suggesting that we keep the travel to one or two weeks in the new year.

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  13. I think you have been getting some great travel in at just the right time. We went on a half-dozen cruises and several cross-country journeys while in our 50s and early 60s, reasoning that we'd do the tripping when we could get maximum enjoyment from it. We loved it all. But now in our late 70s and early 80s, we have much less enthusiasm for travel and enjoy activities available close to home (or at home). "If not now, when" is a good guideline, but "what" may change with age for many.

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    1. I tend to agree with you, Dick, that getting the travel bug dealt with sooner rather than later makes more sense. Even in my late 60's I can feel a natural urge to slowdown a bit...something I should fight.

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  14. We live in Phoenix and use Cox cable. The trick we have learned is to shut off cable TV and internet when we travel for a month or more. We take the boxes back and turn stuff off. Then we turn it back on and get the latest "deal". We get a HD-DVR and a lot of TV channels and full internet for $100ish per month by always getting the latest deal. We use our cell phones as a hot spot when we travel for internet. We stay in hotels for TV when traveling.

    We pay $100ish to ATT for service for two smart phones and 4GB of data and unlimited other stuff. We own the phones.

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    1. You are doing better than we are at the moment. Because Betty and I have purchased smartphones within the last year or so, we have monthly payments and insurance, so our Verizon bill is around $170 a month. Add $80 for Direct TV and $57 for Cox Internet and we are paying much too much to stay connected.

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