In July of 2015 we moved from a 1,400 square foot house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an oversize double garage to an 880 sq. ft. apartment. Four months later, we downsized again and moved to a 670 sq. ft. apartment. With the goals of shortening our retirement horizon and simplifying our lives, we jettisoned most of our belongings and took the plunge into an ongoing adventure in downsizing.
Our next downsize will happen when we retire early, on or before January 19, 2019 (one one nine one nine!). We will once again whittle our belongings down to whatever we can fit in a modest storage space in Sister Grumby’s basement (thanks Dee Ann!). Then we’ll hop on our touring bikes and ride around our beautiful US of A.
The Monthly Downsizer is a once-a-month post that documents our continuing process of intentional reduction. Here’s a link to last month’s post.
While the Super Soaker winter continued in the northwest we purged paper and enjoyed a couple of escapes to “real” spring weather to the east and to the south.
Stuff: Paper, Paper, and more Paper!
Purging the Files
Once upon a time when we lived in our abundantly spacious house we had not one, not two, but three filing cabinets filled with paper. There were tax returns, receipts, closing papers, medical records, recommendation letters, and miscellaneous nostalgic keepsakes. Because someone once told me that I should keep my tax returns and documents forever, I believed them. I don’t even remember who it was. Now purging the tax files is a joyful April ritual, thanks to the the IRS 3-year period of limitation that covers most of our records.*
When it comes to purging papers that we’ve kept for sentimental reasons, it’s helpful to include these in the April routine because our relationship with stuff changes over time. The graduate school letters of acceptance I once treasured as a symbol of academic achievement no longer define my ability to make a difference in the world. (Funny thing is … I never even went to graduate school!) For Mr. G. it was his respiratory board examination results from 22 years ago. These papers represented the launch of his career, and now disposing of them means that the freedom of early retirement is just around the corner!
Overall we’ve made great strides in paper management. From our former bloated 3 filing cabinets, we’re now down to two 10″ x 15″ nimble file boxes that fit on the floor of my closet. The majority of our records are now stored electronically.
*Exception to the 3-year Rule
One important exception to the 3-year rule that we’ll need to remember is receipts for medical expense that we pay for while our HSA accounts grow. If we incur $800 in medical expense in 2018 that we pay out-of-pocket, it’s our choice when we get the tax-free reimbursement from our HSA account – as long as we have receipts. To better understand the potential magic behind the HSA account, check out this article by Mad Fientist.
Money Matters (because it does, you know)
Q1 Savings Provide Comfort for April Travel Splurge
As I mentioned in last month’s post, we had significant year-over-year savings in medical, groceries, and entertainment expense in Q1, so it felt OK to loosen the reins for some April travel:
- Trip to Colorado for my niece’s wedding – $497 (thanks to my mom and sister for the lovely free accommodations!)
- Mr. Grumby’s Pacific coast motorcycle adventure – $1,079
Mobile Phone Expense Experiment
Mr. Grumby is experimenting with mobile phone expense reduction and tried out Google Voice through Ting. He deliberately reduced his voice usage by using Google Voice and also monitored data usage when he didn’t have wifi access. The result? $25 for the month of April vs. $38 in March. $12/month savings from April through December would be $96 for the year. Not bad!
Mr. G says, “The great thing about Ting is that there is no contract. You pay for what you use, rather than what the Fascist Big Company decides what you should pay. If you click the link and sign up, you get $25 off and we also get an account credit for $25. A win-win!”
Escapes to Real Spring Weather! (you know, above 50 degrees)
Historic Family Wedding in Colorado
On October 7, 2014 same-sex marriage became legally recognized in the state of Colorado and on June 26, 2015 marriage equality was legally recognized in all states. It was a beautiful experience to participate in the joy of this important social progress when we attended our niece’s wedding last month. She and her wife threw a spectacular celebration for family and friends, complete with perfect weather, an outstanding BBQ dinner, and lively dancing. My favorite part of the day, though, was the ceremony. The officiant’s message about the power of love created a warm and happy energy amongst all in attendance. And the historical significance of the day was not lost on those of us who have been around for a few decades.
I think most of us would say, “Wow – I can’t believe that interracial marriage was not fully legal in the United States until 1967.” I’m glad that the public acceptance of marriage equality for the LGBTQ community is now going through a similar transformation. Hopefully the next generation will look back on the early 2000’s and say, “What?! Marriage equality was not available to everyone?”
The world could definitely use more love!
Mr. Grumby’s “Wild Hogs 2017” Motorcycle Adventure
After the wedding, Mr. Grumby headed south to Long Beach, CA for a re-positioning opportunity with Motoquest motorcycle rentals. Every spring, the company solicits assistance with transporting part of their fleet up north for summer rentals in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. For a reduced rental rate ($50/day vs. $110+ normal rate) he was able to meander up the Pacific coast for 7 days and drop the bike off just a few miles from our apartment. Expect a May post from Mr. G. with the details. Highlights included visiting his niece and her fiance in West Hollywood, riding through the Redwood Forest, and exercising his ninja tarp skills.
April Showers Bring Flowers
Those of us living in the northwest have a skewed perception of the winter weather right now. It seems that the rain will never end. But all we have to do is dash outside during a fleeting sunbreak to see that one of the side effects of all this doom and gloom is a spectacular array of spring flowers.
The same can be said of anything which we perceive to be unpleasant. We need only remember that everything is impermanent.
As that relates to personal finance:
- The challenges of long-term fiscal discipline will yield freedom, flexibility, creativity, and resilience
- Portfolio losses will recover from market downturns (when we don’t panic, of course!)
When the grey skies seem too bleak, we always have the freedom to change our attitudes.
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
Thich Nhat Hanh
What have you gotten rid of recently that is no longer of sentimental value to you?
How has fiscal discipline changed your spending and saving habits?
Here’s a link to The Monthly Downsizer: May 2017