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Enfier's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2021 1:07 pm
by enfier
Perhaps it seems an odd place to start a journal for some, but I'm already retired. To me it seems perfectly natural as retirement is far from the end of the journey. I'm starting a journal as I work through some issues in my life. Not bad to have problems just generally good problems. I'm having a bit of trouble managing my time and the siren call of more income and stuff is calling to me a bit.

I've been retired for a year and three months now. The first months of retirement were mid-Covid and we did some slow travel around the Western US with a travel trailer which was a dream of mine. We also visited towns we might be interested in living in and finally settled down in October. Since I don't have a job to work and nothing I do is really "essential" in the eyes of the public, we just kinda holed up for the winter to avoid spreading Covid during flu season. Come spring I got ready for doing some long distance hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail and I was out there from mid-March to the beginning of July. We have a 5 year old son and my wife is expecting another in October so I had to cut my trip short by a month as home life got too tough for my wife to handle solo.

Right now I'm trying to get a handle on routine. Before I talk about the solution I guess I should should start with the problem. I've just been a bit blissfully adrift for the last year. Well I probably had 8 months out of 14 retirement months where long term travel or long term hiking defined my activity, but for the rest of the time I've just been doing work as I felt like it. It hasn't been a big issue as nothing is falling apart and the bills are getting paid and I'm having fun, but ultimately there are things I'd like to do with my life that require different skills. Those skills won't happen if I don't spend time practicing them and completely freeform time management ends up with them neglected. Also some tasks I don't love like cleaning tend to always get pushed to the bottom of the list. So first off I busted out a book that worked well for me while working - *Time Management for Systems Administrators* and started working my evergrowing todo list of doom into something better. I also created a routine for me to do - both on a daily and weekly basis. I'll likely at some point add a monthly/quarterly one for things like deep cleaning but I'm not really worried about it at this point. So as my book suggest I gave each task a time allotment and well it adds up to a lot of time! I've been working at getting the routine actually done and so far with about 3 weeks of trying it's been kinda hit or miss. I'm also tracking my time using Clockify, while I'm not getting 100% of the time logged yet it definitely helps me see trends. All this measurement seems a bit much, but having reliable data about where my time is going really helps me understand what's really going on, which is often a lot different than our perception. I don't plan on continuing to time log once routine is handling the time management job.

Second up, I'm just having a little difficulty with the siren call of stuff. Not really stuff but there' are a lot of things that could be bought that presumably improve my quality of life. Anywhere from an actual toolchest (well pegboard is cheaper) to a second used electric vehicle for around town trips. I do want a new monitor and I really ought to replace my old pants at some point. Usally that comes out of my $300/mo personal budget which seems adequate but forces some pacing on the expenses. For reference, I'd probably hover around 5+6+7 on the ERE Wheaton Scale and my wife is probably running around 1+2+3 at this point. So some compromise is the name of the game. The budget right now runs around $3600 per month for 3 including rent. We decided to spend the child tax credit checks rather than save it so it's $600 above normal. Typically it would be $3150 a month which should be supported by our portfolio. The portfolio is doing fine and at some point we'll probably buy a house that needs rehab to square away the housing expense. All in all, it's not bad. Unfortunately my son's school requires a commute which I calculate as burning $300 a month - I'm trying to get it done by bike on a more regular basis, but it's physically challenging. The eventual solution will probably involve an electric car and solar panels as that can be implemented for $10k which is a lot cheaper than buying a house close to my son's school. I figure that if we could cut costs around home then we'd have more surplus to spend on whatever and it would be more fun. Not that things are too tight right now, but balancing the budget is more challenging than it should be. I do feel like what I'm currently doing is closer to "being a better consumer" than a systems based strategy. Right now I'm tackling the grocery bill - at $650 a month it seems like a lot to me. There's a lot pushing on the grocery bill right now - we recently switched to mostly vegetarian and it's a bit of a learning curve. I'm trying to get recipes down to some sort of rough rotation so I'm not buying one-off spices that we never use again and trying to stock up on things when prices are good and track prices so I can spot a deal. As our supplies of frequently used items have built, it's actually increasing the grocery bill in the short term, but the lower unit prices ought to reduce it long term. So only time will tell if the promise actually delivers on that.

I'd like to be living a more optimized life that's not so reliant on money. It's just going to be a long journey to get there - when we were working, enormous amounts of cash flow could paper over any deficencies. So hopefully this is the beginning of a journey to a more integrated life.

Re: Enfier's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2021 2:41 pm
by HanaSolo
Hello Enfier! I too just started a journal, looking forward to reading about your very different experience. DH and I hiked the PCT in 2015- interested to hear what portion of your hike stood out. Thru hiking mentality seems like a gateway drug to ERE for sure (or maybe in your case it was the other way?).
enfier wrote:
Tue Sep 14, 2021 1:07 pm
I'd probably hover around 5+6+7 on the ERE Wheaton Scale and my wife is probably running around 1+2+3 at this point.
This caught my attention. I'd say DH and I both hover around WL2/3, with him being a trusting (if somewhat disinterested) tag-a-long as I move upward on that scale. And I've wondered about the harmony of our coexistence should that gap widen. I think I'd be frustrated navigating that kind of gap. Do you have an example of what compromise looks like for a WL2 individual and a WL6 individual?

Re: Enfier's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2021 5:27 pm
by enfier
DH and I hiked the PCT in 2015- interested to hear what portion of your hike stood out. Thru hiking mentality seems like a gateway drug to ERE for sure (or maybe in your case it was the other way?)
This was my second hike, my wife and I hiked in 2014 for 800 miles. It definitely wasn't my wife's cup of tea so after retirement I went on a solo trip. The difference between my first hike and my second one was night and day. Sometime in between I discovered Zen and did a lot of practice and let go of a lot of the planning for the hiking. I was just so much more present and enjoyed all the people I met and didn't care much at all about the miles. The first time around it was a revelation that I could live with 10 lbs worth of personal possessions and enjoy life, but this time it was just a different mindset. I can be happy in a crowded city with a small apartment or on the trail with next to nothing to my name or at home with a house and my personal coffee maker. I noticed that a lot of people were escaping lives they didn't particularly enjoy and it seemed odd to me, even if I'd been in that place before. The nicest part really is the complete lack of responsiblity and interruption. With only myself to take care of, life is a lot easier! I'm not sure how that relates back to city life, when I found out that my wife was having a tough time back home I just caught the next plane I could find back home without much of an issue. Some people have a tough time doing the transition to the trail and then back to city life but I didn't have much attachment to anything - not to finishing the trail either. I did decide that I wanted to more carefully manage my time, to work on goals that had meaning to me, to become a bigger part of my community and to get some intellectually stimulating work to do. To that sense... the routine is an effort in that direction. So much of what I want to do boils down to time management and I'm managing the process rather than the result right now.
Do you have an example of what compromise looks like for a WL2 individual and a WL6 individual
Honestly I dislike talking about stuff like this online because all the readers tend to project their own grievances and values onto the backdrop of your story. Of course my wife and I have our differences and we work out compromises, but what's reasonable to us might not be reasonable to others. Some people feel it completely unreasonable (especially my sister) that I went hiking for 4 months while my wife was pregnant, but it didn't seem unreasonable to me or my wife. Finances are only a small part of our relationship and the stuff we might quibble over is a small part of our success anyways so I try not to lose sight of the overall trajectory.

So I'll just give some examples without too much commentary

Transportation - I'd prefer to park my truck and only use it for road trips and errands over 5 miles. I generally ride my bike for anything in town unless I'm running late. My wife just isn't going to get on a bike and hook up the bike trailer and ride down to the park that's 2 miles away. Well right now she can't ride a bike since she's pregnant, but even after it's just not the sort of thing she's going to do. She might agree that it's a good idea and maybe even do it once or twice after encouragement but it messes up her hair and causes her to get sweaty and it's low on social status. That's just not going to happen so I'll probably buy a used Nissan Leaf for $5k (maybe a Chevy Bolt if people start dumping them) and maybe an off the grid solar array for another couple grand and wire the whole thing up so that the sun powers our car. The range on that will cover anything we do on a regular basis and at least it minimizes the bleed.

Skills - for whatever reason any new skill learning is offloaded to me. I'm not really sure why this is. So if say tailoring our own clothes is the next money saving idea, it's going to be me learning to do it. To be honest it kinda rubs me the wrong way but what are you supposed to do about it? Something about wanting to push the horse into the water.

Baby stuff - I'd kinda prefer to run without most of the baby stuff - just some cloth diapers, a few disposibles, a crib, car seat, onesies and then later on buy the things we really miss. She wants the stroller, pack'n'play, wet wipe warmer, special bottle cleaning brush, you name it. So we went out and bought all the stuff that needs to be new (like the car seat and diaper rash cream) at the store and she's been hunting used deals on the rest of it. Including the wet wipe warmer which probably costs more than it's worth in electricity every month, but that's what she wanted. So she found and picked up a pack'n'play and stroller for $25 each. Meanwhile I'm more stressed about where we are going to store all of this stuff...

Air conditioning - The electricity bill before last was high ($111) so last month and beyond we've been better about just living with the heat. It dropped down to $82 for last month. Keep in mind that everything in this house runs on electric - heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, the clothes dryer. Around 80 degrees is when my wife and the dog start getting uncomfortable so if it's going to be like that for a while during the day, the AC goes on for the afternoon. Recently it wasn't very cool at night so you can't really cool the house down overnight. I really ought to price out some fans to move air around the house so I can drop it's temperature overnight.

Drying clothes - Normally she'd dry clothes on a drying rack most of the time, but lately it's tough for her to do pregnant so I've just been doing it. Before that she was running the dryer which runs up our bills.

Food - my wife runs the budget in scarcity mode - for instance this month we are already at $500 halfway through and she'd normally just try to eat whatever we have on hand. The problem is that it leaves you with no supplies for keeping your bill low next month. If your time frame for saving money is always a week then you won't have much opportunity to buy things at lower unit costs. Now I understand that some people can make that work to great effect based on weekly sales, but they know the typical costs like the back of their hand and can tailor their menu to the sales. My wife doesn't like doing math (childhood trauma) and isn't going to use a spreadsheet and quite frankly seems baffled by the whole idea of buying enough of something to last you months when it's a good price. So I'm just doing grocery shopping now because it's easier and more effective for me to do it than to try to change her ways and the budget item is big enough that it's worth my while to take over.

So my wife certainly isn't spendy, but any of the systems based stuff just doesn't click with her at all. Nor does making a spreadsheet and trying to figure out which way is better/cheaper. She does try to get better gas mileage in the truck, but I doubt if she's willing to pulse and glide to bump it up over 30mpg around town.

To be fair also, it's kinda hard to peg your own place on the WL scale and maybe even harder to place your wife. Too close to the subject for observation :) I'm just trying to improve my own life and I'm getting to the limits of earn a lot, save and invest. Future improvement is going to have to revolve around my time and behavior.

Re: Enfier's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2021 8:49 pm
by Lemur
Posting in regards to your paragraph on skills - I think you will come to find that this is a blessing in disguise. Others will see how you behave and determine for themselves that you're doing it in a better way and they will adopt ... they may even come to believe that they come up with the idea themselves which is even better. I'm finding quickly now that leading by example is the best way - try to talk someone into changing a behavior and they will just double down the other direction even...

Speaking of projection, I'm in the middle of a no-buy year so that is driving this:

I like to combine Wheaton levels with what I call the Household Overton Window (family of 3 here as well). I have figured if I myself lead by example and try to improve myself on the scale, then the whole household may shift in a better direction over a long period of time. Less talk and more action because I've found the former doesn't work well (maybe in other relationships? not mine though).

I'll provide some examples from my own situation. These have occurred spontaneously:

1.) Spouse & I used to like to get a sub at Wawa (kinda like a Subway on the East Coast) after work. We weren't really hungry - just a habit for something to do after both of us worked from home and don't feel like cooking. I knew that this is costly obviously but since my no-buy year includes fast foods and purchases like these we haven't had any unless my Spouse really wants to buy for herself (and I offer to drive). My Spouse spontaneously figured out how to replicate the chicken salad sandwiches at home. +1 skill point. I think she got tired of buying it already and me not partaking. There is nothing special about these expensive sandwiches. I read a paper that states if you eat a food at a dining/restaurant it almost seems better because all the aromas hit you at once versus when you're cooking you're constantly smelling it so by the time you sit down and eat it isn't novel anymore. But certainly there is a satisfaction that comes from making something really good yourself.

2.) Regarding food budget, I found out how to get my Spouse on board the lentil/bean eating...I just discovered that I need to cook it myself. And cook it well (I used to just make these real plain because it was just tailored to me to be quick and easy but for my Spouse to eat these, I had to get "fancy").

Previously I would state like a dead horse (is that how the saying goes lol?) we should eat beans/lentils more and less meat to save money. In hindsight, of course this approach was going to fail. As the saying goes...the onerous is on you. So I found a really good lentil + rice recipe that my Spouse and son both will eat. +1 point. That was impossible for years. And also found a black bean / pinto bean burrito combination that my family will eat as well. Another point. So I share the dinner making responsibility a lot more now.

Funny thing here I figured out over time - my Spouse likes to say and quote "we don't have any food" (meaning food that she likes to cook and/or this could also mean she just doesn't feel like cooking) and that has become my calling to make something. I'm on it! :lol: Will that be burritos or rice bowl with beans/leans?

3.) I learned how to make salsa. This was required to make my burritos really good and I also got tired of composting / throwing away moldy tomatoes. Reducing waste is like ERE 101 anyway...Salsa will preserve these tomatoes due to the acid I think. Turns out salsa is extremely easy to make and all these years I just never bothered to look that up...but I am on a no-buy year you get bored and start figuring stuff out. Also...was cool to use cilantro for something. I never used that ingredient for anything.

Re: Enfier's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 15, 2021 11:02 am
by enfier
To be honest, I'm not really interested in changing my spouse's behavior. Its kinda funny you talk about making beans and salsa, she's Mexican so that's just routine in our house. I just don't really care what she does, if she doesn't want to save money then she can go back to work for a while. In any point it's not a goal of mine. I don't think it's within my control.

What I'm working on right now is getting about 30 healthy, excellent quality recipes going that are mostly meat free. My wife loves good food, so to make this work I have to nail it on the meals being delicious and not too repetitive. So far it's going well but each recipe has a learning curve and then I have to balance out the base - beans, rice, lentils, sweet potatoes, squash etc so the family won't complain.

Once I have a decent rotation going I can start balancing it for cost, variety and nutrition but at this point I'm really just trying out new recipes and keeping the ones we love. I have a couple of good cookbooks to work out of so it's just going to be some trial and error.

I do however talk about the things I'm doing... It may seem obvious to me from my own mindset but less so to my wife. It's just a general sharing of what I'm working on without a bunch of expectations. Otherwise you are just being weird for no reason.

Re: Enfier's Journal

Posted: Wed Sep 15, 2021 7:18 pm
by HanaSolo
enfier wrote:
Tue Sep 14, 2021 5:27 pm
The difference between my first hike and my second one was night and day. Sometime in between I discovered Zen and did a lot of practice and let go of a lot of the planning for the hiking. I was just so much more present and enjoyed all the people I met and didn't care much at all about the miles.
As they say, last one to the finish line wins.

Thanks for all the compromise examples, sounds like ordinary wedded bliss to me :)