Evolution of the Grumby Retirement Budget

Best mug at the coffee shop – “sometimes all you need is a billion dollars”

Once upon a time, way back in 2013, we had a retirement budget that was waaaaay higher than our current plan.

In this post we’ll take a look at our 2013 spreadsheet and compare it to our current prediction of what we’ll spend when we retire in 2019. (Or sooner.)

  • How did our lives look in 2013?
  • In what ways have our lives changed?
  • How have our thoughts and assumptions evolved?
  • What’s the moral of the story?


And most importantly, does Mr. Grumby need $1 Billion to retire happily?

We were at Cup Coffee Co. with my sister the other day to celebrate her birthday and Mr. Grumby chose the mug in the photo for his caffeine fix.


A Portrait of Grumby Life & Retirement Dreams: 2013

To set the stage for the 2013 version of the Grumby Retirement Budget, it’s important to understand what our lives looked like.

Major Possessions

Grumby Dogs at the beach – we miss them!

Four years ago we owned a 100-year-old house and a 12-year old car. We also had two dogs and a cat. Our vision of the perfect retirement at that time was that we would pay off our house, keep our car, and buy a van for traveling. We thought we’d also still have a pet.



Since we were in the habit of going out frequently, we imagined that we would want to go out even more when we retired. In 2013 it was common for us to go out to dinner a couple of times each week. We also spent a fair amount of money on pricey concerts, shows, and other outings. We were working hard and we deserved frequent rewards, right?



When we went out shopping for groceries, we went to the store that was closest to our house – Whole Foods. We always went with a list, bought most of our food in the bulk section, and looked for good deals on produce. Assuming that our strategy was clever, we thought we were immune to the “Whole Paycheck” syndrome that affected most Whole Foods shoppers.

Our approach with personal shopping was similarly deliberate, so we thought. We were careful to not add too many new items to our pile of belongings and only made replacement purchases.



In 2013 we spent about $6,700 on travel, so it was easy to imagine spending a few thousand more once we were retired and had more time on our hands.



Because we needed all of this money for a comfortable life in retirement, we didn’t imagine that we’d be able to qualify for healthcare subsidies. So we planned for high premiums. And because our out-of-pocket expenses had been relatively high for a couple of years, we assumed that they would probably be equal or higher once we retired.


Here is the 2013 Spreadsheet

Click image to enlarge and review the 2013 version of our retirement budget:

Click image to enlarge


Life Changes, Thought Transitions, and Assumption Transformations: 2017 Grumby Life

Major Possessions

  • House
  • Car
  • Pets
  • Bicycles and Gear

We’ve done quite a bit of downsizing and now our only major possessions are our bikes and cycling/camping gear.

Knowing that we wanted to travel when we retire, we decided that our best route was to downsize and exit Portland’s real estate market at a historic peak. Gains on the home sale proceeds that we invested have exceeded our rent expense, and while we travel those dollars will be at work earning the money that we’ll need to buy our next home.

We will also own a car again someday (hopefully just one) and I would really like to have a dog that I can train for therapy. But for right now, we’ll be traveling light.



Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Challenge was a huge influence on how our entertainment habits evolved. We still go out to restaurants and shows once in awhile, but our default is no longer paying other people to feed and entertain us. We’re not chefs by any stretch, but we enjoy preparing healthy meals at home for ourselves and occasional guests. And our favorite entertainment? A nice bike ride or walk to one of Portland’s numerous beautiful parks to have a picnic or to just hang out.

In 2017 we’ll spend about $3,000 less on entertainment than we did in 2013.



Last year we did some bulk food price comparisons and quickly discovered that there is no “bargain” shopping at Whole Foods (um … duh!). We now shop at 3 stores in our new neighborhood and our year-to-date 2017 grocery expense is … OMG … 37% lower than Jan-Jul 2016. We have not made many changes to what we eat, but our meal planning is more efficient. We’re more likely now to make big batches of food (soup, burrito mix, etc.) that we can freeze and use over a couple of weeks.

With personal items we’ve taken the downsizing-by-attrition approach. If something wears out or we decide to donate it, we do not automatically replace it. In fact, we’ve discovered that most often less stuff is still quite enough.



What if travel were not a separate line item on the retirement budget? What if there were a way for our travel lodging to be our housing expense? … This is entirely possible when you don’t own a home and travel slowly and/or creatively.

We’re confident that when we’re bicycle touring, our travel/lodging/food/entertainment expense will be about $2500/month.

And if we want to take a month off from time to time, we’ll look for a one-month Airbnb in the $1500 range. We’ve done a bit of research, and they’re out there! We may not be staying in Boulder, CO or New York City, but there are a few other places to explore.

There are also multiple international opportunities for slow travel on a modest budget.



As long as the Affordable Care Act is intact (crossing fingers and all possible appendages!), we will qualify for subsidies with the lower income required to meet our spending needs.

If premiums go up, that will definitely hurt. But we have the flexibility of covering out-of-pocket expenses with the HSA accounts that we’ve been building up over the past few years.


Two Retirement Budget Versions: 2013 vs. 2017

Here’s a side-by-side comparison that shows how how our retirement budget has evolved over the past 4 years – click image to enlarge:

Click image to enlarge

Wow – that’s a 43% reduction! I would say that’s quite a transformation.


What’s the Moral of the Story?

The moral of the story is quite simple. When you’re open to analyzing your spending behavior and changing your habits, a natural result is the ability to see more clearly what makes you happy. And to eliminate what doesn’t. This transformative process will re-shape both your present and your future.

When you discover that you need less money to be happy in retirement, it means you can retire a whole heck of a lot earlier.

For a brilliant graphic representation of how this works, check out Zach from Four Pillar Freedom’s recent post, Visualizing Financial Independence With Tiny Blocks.


Does Mr. Grumby Need $1 Billion to Retire Happily?

If Grumby Cat were here, she’d say “Would $1 Billion buy me a better cardboard box?”

GrumbyCat's American Dream

Grumby Cat was always satisfied with the simple things



Happiness Evolution

How has your definition of happiness evolved over time?

If you’re not retired yet, how will this affect when you retire?

If you’re already retired, how did your happiness evolution affect your retirement date?






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