Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's all about Attitude - in Life and Retirement

As Bill and I get older, I find myself Googling retirement stuff.  Holy shit!  The bulk of it is people freaking out because they don't have the millions of bucks they have been told they need to live after chucking their jobs.  Right now, I'm feeling rather good about life in general, so I'll be brave and say 'boo hoo'.  You can live quite happily with just a little. I'm glad that I have the brains to know that all the money in the world isn't going to magically make me happy.  I know that we also have choices and options, right this minute and also ten years in the future.  Some of them might end up being ... well, not pleasant, but hey, that's life.  You can still be happy in between plan B and plan C.  You might end up really liking plan C after you get to that step, too.  Some of the happiest people I have ever known have been the ones living in what a lot of us would consider dire straits most of their lives.

Some of the goofball retiree comments I have heard:
I have worked too hard all my life to do with less than what I have now - So you've been miserable for 40 years, working the job you didn't like, but have the big house, two cars, eat out, drive around because you're bored, watch the tube...and stay miserable counting your nickels trying to maintain that lifestyle. 
I'm retired now so I have time to bitch - First of all, courtesy is cheap, so acquire some.  The first step in resolving any problem is communication, not bitching.  The poorly paid person you are bitching at didn't create your problem/issue.  Remind yourself to "be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle".
I can't afford a hobby - Finding something you enjoy doesn't have to be expensive.  And you don't have to succeed at it, either.  Try something different!  Try a lot of different things!  Here's a few options:
     1. Don't think you would like to garden?  Then try a tomato plant or an herb in a pot on your porch.  You might discover that you actually do have a green thumb.  Most gardeners will happily share plant starts or extra seeds.  If you don't have a big flower pot, you can probably get a 5 gallon bucket from the deli section at the grocery store or the local fast food restaurants and poke some holes in the bottom and lower sides for drainage.  You can also make your own natural bug spray.
     2. Take up walking - get to know your neighbors.
     3. Do some volunteer work without expecting anything in return - Meals on Wheels, help someone weed their garden, paint their house, repair their fence, give them a lift to their doctor appointment.  The best way to feel good about yourself is to help someone else.
     4. Read a book.  Not the same news in different newspapers, a book.  That's something in print meant to be enjoyed.  If you're reading this, you have access to a computer.  There's gobs and gobs of stuff to read on the web.
     5. If you can afford it, adopt a pet.  As pet owners everywhere know, there's no such thing as a free cat, dog, chicken, lizard, whatever.  But having some living creature to care for will give you hours of joy...and frustration at times.  Definitely not free, but for a lot of us, it's still worth it.

Some things are not hobbies!  If you're doing any of the below on a daily basis, you need a hobby. See above.  For example:

Constantly checking the expiration dates on your food.  Once in a while is good, put the older stuff in front.
When people casually ask 'how are you', you tell them...in great detail.
Holding the store clerk hostage with your lengthy story about your gall bladder surgery.
Calling companies daily and complaining about their product, like the M&M's are smaller now, etc.

You get the drift.  All the complaining in the world isn't going to make you happy. The hobbies may bring you some happiness, but if you start every idea with 'I don't think I'll like this', then you may be doomed.

If you want some changes in your life, you have to be willing to make some changes.

Now then, some options if you're retiring semi broke:
Be willing to live in a smaller place.  Sell your house, rent a smaller place, buy an RV or boat and go experience life while you still are healthy enough to do it.  Go through your stuff, keep what you need and actually use, sell or donate everything else.
ASK for what you need and choose 'used' over new  - Most areas have Freecycle, Craigslist, DAV, Goodwill, etc.  But tell people that you're in the market for a good used ____.  You might get exactly what you need for cheap or nothing.
Need more to eat?  Check the web for groups that forage in your area, local Food Banks, churches usually have some info on where you could get emergency food. Quit buying convenience foods, paper and cleaning products, etc, so you can make your food dollars go further.  Yes, you really can use rags instead of TP if you need to.  Read up on square foot gardening and container gardening.  Tons of forums and blogs about those things.  Yes, you really can produce some of your own food.
Get your vitamins from food, not pills.  My usual diet is so crappy that I need to take a couple vitamins, but overall, I'd rather eat a banana than take a potassium pill.  Do some research online to see what you can eat to get the vitamins you need.  Overall, a more vegetarian lifestyle is cheaper and healthier.  (I'm getting better at that...) 

And while you're checking that out online, check into the free online herbalism courses.  You'll probably still need some big Pharma drugs sometimes, but if you can make some 'food' type medicines, what do you have to lose?  Millions of people have done it throughout the generations, and it's still very common in other cultures.  Maybe not on your block, but it's still practiced.  And a lot of it works.  Just my opinion, as I'm no doctor.  One thing that I do when I have loose stools is drink some cornstarch water.  Yep.  Just a spoonful of cornstarch in a half cup of water, chug it down.  Hold your nose, it doesn't taste the best.  Then drink some water to get the taste out of your mouth.  You need the extra fluid anyway if you got the poops.  Repeat if necessary. That's what they used to use before Kaopectate and Imodium hit the shelves. 

Google everything.  How to make _______.  Frugal living forums.  Cheap living.  Tightwad living.  The full time RV'ing websites have some interesting information, even if you aren't going to do the RV thing. They have some pretty nifty ideas for storage in dinky spaces.  We have friends doing it now, and it sounds like a great community of rich and not so rich.  You can live in an RV for $500 a month, or of course, way more than that.  Again, Google everything.  Then you can make some informed choices of what's going to work in your situation.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Just One Step

Our daughter made a comment the other day that when you really get into the eco-friendly lifestyle, you're more aware of how wasteful other people are.  Isn't that the truth.  Some of them just don't know there are alternatives, some have limited time and others just don't give a rat's ass.

Recently when Bill and I were at the grocery store, a woman was in the aisle, clutching a handful of coupons, staring at the 'Mr. Clean ' eraser things.  She commented that she couldn't make up her mind if she should buy the name brand with the coupon or the store brand, which would still be cheaper.  She asked which one I would buy.  I was polite when I told her that I was probably the wrong one to ask, as I would use baking soda to clean anything that needed the eraser thing, so I wouldn't buy either one.  As she was explaining in great detail all the money she saved by using coupons, I was looking at what she had in her cart.  There must have been at least 10 different cleaning products in there.  Sure, she saved $4 because of coupons, but she spent $20 or more when she probably had everything at home to make alternatives that would work just as well.  I have to admit that I was a little saddened because of all the plastic bottles, too.  I hope she recycled, but so many people don't.

I don't want this to be some kind of rant, so I'm putting out a challenge:  Can you take ONE STEP, just ONE STEP each month towards a better world for the future?  Even something as simple as taking your lunch to work one day a week, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of a hamburger, is making a difference.  Another easy step is to unplug things that you aren't using.  Or using a Brita filter pitcher instead of buying bottled water.  Or drinking one less soda pop a day.  Or using your slow cooker more often.  You get the drift, these aren't difficult or truly lifestyle changing, but it all adds up.

I am more extreme than ever since I watched 'No Impact Man', but I'm still looking for ways to be more eco friendly yet not too labor intensive.  And there's a comfort level that I want, too.

My latest change is the cat litter. Over the course of a couple of years, I went from purchased, silicone kitty litter to Feline Pine to making my own w/ recycled newspaper and baking soda to now scooping up straw bits and leaf crumbles from the garden into a 5 gallon bucket to store by litter boxes.  I have a coffee canister with some pine sawdust to sprinkle over the top after I scoop out the poops AKA composting toilet for kitties.  I have five cats inside, but I don't want my house to smell like I have five cats inside, you know?  Oh, I also scooped up a trash can full of straw/leaf crumbles and put that in the shop so it wouldn't freeze solid in the winter. It's easy to go out, dip up a bucketful and bring it into the house.  A lot easier than hauling 20 lb. bags back from the store, I'm telling ya.  Edited 3/9/11:  Well, that didn't last too long as the cats tracked it all over the place.  I think I didn't have enough dirt type stuff in it.  I also quit making the newspaper litter as I had to keep a batch going constantly since I have too many cats.  So, it's back to Feline Pine.  But I did read that some people use chicken scratch grains, so I might try that next.  Or a bale of pine shavings used for bedding.
Another edit 5/1/11:  Well, the pine shavings worked as far as odor control, but man, that stuff can travel when it's clinging to a long haired cat!   We even found a piece on our bed!  So, back to the Feline Pine.
Now, I admit that most people wouldn't go that far, or don't have a garden, etc, but how about makng the switch to a litter that is more eco-friendly like Feline Pine, Yesterday's News or another recycled litter?  No huge life changing step there, but it does make a difference.

Just one step - can you find some little thing to change each month?  Heck, you'll feel so good about yourself after a bit, the next steps will be easy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

More Creative Re-Using with T-shirts

There are those that thrive on finding different uses for 'stuff'.  I'm in that category, just in case you haven't noticed.  I like learning things, even if they aren't things that I am going to do.

Take the lowly old t-shirt.  Most of us have them, right?  Most of us have a few too many, too.  So, other than going to the rag bag, what do you do with them when they're past their prime?

I have seen or read that you can (and these ideas have been around for a long time):
Tear strips and crochet a rug or bathmat
Ditto on tearing, but then crochet a grocery bag or tote
Make a quilt
Make a dog toy

Other t-shirt stuff that I recently read:
Sew a tote from the t-shirt.  Sure would be faster than crocheting.  Mine would look crappy either way.

Make diapers for baby.  I guess there are patterns online for them, or you can buy them at a luxury price of $8 each!

Sew into sanitary napkins.  Lots of patterns online for this.

Cut into wide strips, fold lenthwise a few times and use them for sanitary napkins.  The post that I read about doing this pretty much told you that you were stoo-pid to take the time to sew your own personal products.  It was kind of funny, she was really ranting about it.

Use them in place of toilet paper, AKA family cloth.  Now, this gal had the system down!  She had four daughters and was constanly buying toilet paper.  She put the cut up t-shirts in a tissue box (easy dispensing and no folding) and kept a plastic coffee canister next to the toilet.  Then she added a tablespoon of white vinegar to some water in the canister for easy, odor free collection.  When it was fairly full, she'd drain the water off, add water and shake with the lid on for a pre-rinse.  Drain and add more water, add a shot or two of liquid hand soap, few more shakes, drain.  Then into the washer with her other clothes.  With all those kids, she did laundry every other day anyway.  She kept TP on the roller so their friends didn't freak out.

The posts that followed hers were interesting, too.  (My comments in italics.)
There was the 'ick' factor from poo - she responded that each person was responsible for rinsing out their cloth before it went into the container.  You're going to wash your hands anyway, aren't you?  What about doing the initial wiping with TP and follow up with cloth? Added bonus would be if the sink was close by so you could use a damp rag, too.
Some were concerned about washing them with other clothes, stating that they should be washed seperately.  Her response was that you wash your underwear with other clothes, don't you?  And that makes sense.  These aren't diapers, completely soaked with urine.  There would be just a very small amount of urine on the rag, and it's getting a prewash before it goes in with the rest of the clothes.

The comment that cracked me up was from a gal from another country that had never used toilet paper in her life.  She said that using TP was about the nastiest thing she had ever heard of - you wouldn't rub your dirty hands on a piece of paper and then call them clean, would you?  She has a point...

It is kind of funny that so many people will spend more for toilet paper that feels as soft as cloth, but freak out at the thought of actually using cloth. I sure wouldn't go buy flannel (or take the time to sew around the edges), or buy any product stated for said use.  Use those old t-shirts - I suggest you cut off logos and paint goobers.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Move Your Money

This has a wonderful, informative, troubling, thought provoking short video called Move Your Money.

http://moveyourmoney.info/   Put your dough in the local credit union.  At least they will recognize your face after a while.

Just a bit about investing, not that I am anywhere nearly qualified to tell you what you should do with your hard earned cash, but for me the bottom line is this:

No one cares more about my money than I do.

So we took control of our money.  See the emphasis on OUR money?  After making very little or losing at Waddell and Reed, we closed our accounts.  They tried their hardest to talk us into leaving it there, saying we weren't qualified to invest, etc, etc.  You know what?  There are places out there in cyberland that will teach you how to do it.  One of our favorites is Motley Fool.  Follow their advice, do research on your own, bury it in a fruit jar, just take control.

After a 'learning curve', we started making more money with Bill handling the investing than what we ever did with Waddell and Reed.  And we were with them for over 20 years.  Shame on us.

I'm actually okay with burying some cash in a fruit jar, but Bill won't let me.