The Monthly Downsizer: April 2017

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

Papers! Aaaaaghhh!

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

Seriously tasty BBQ at the wedding.

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

Mr. G. somewhere near San Jose

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

Neighborhood tulips – a sign of spring! (Now, if the sun would make an appearance …)

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

 

Shifting Perspective

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

  8 Replies to “The Monthly Downsizer: April 2017”

  1. KM
    May 1, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    We’ve been looking to reduce the insane backlog of paper, too. I’ve been scanning and shredding the current stuff, but still need to tackle our sole remaining 2-drawer filing cabinet. And , erm — I have maybe 12-15 bankers’ boxes full of finance papers that go back into the early 90s!! I’m planning to send it all to a secure shredding service. As to that 3-year rule, another thing to take into account is that if you think you might want to amend a return, I think you need to retain returns 3 years back from that. I need to look this up to be sure… (We probably need to amend some returns going back as much as 5-6 years.)

    • Mrs. Grumby
      May 1, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Hi Kathleen! Good to know about the amendments. We haven’t run into that yet. We’re probably OK if we do because we started digitizing our files in 2009. Great to hear that you’re down to one 2-drawer filing cabinet. Keep an eye out for businesses offering free shredding events. Our realtors do it once a year, so I’ll forward that email to you next time they have one scheduled. Maybe you know other people in the real estate that have similar events? Here’s to freedom from paper!

  2. Marcie
    May 1, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Thought you might find this useful:
    https://find.irs.gov/c/search?affiliate=IRS&commit=Submit&query=How+long+to+keep+paper&utf8=%E2%9C%93

    If you own depreciable property like a rental or home office, or have paperwork that establishes your cost basis (like the value of that stock grandpa gave you), keep the paperwork until you sell the property, plus 3 years. I’m always having to dredge up depreciation records from eons ago for my clients!

    Keep up the great work!

    • Mrs. Grumby
      May 2, 2017 at 3:22 pm

      Thanks Marcie. Always good to have input from a tax professional!
      This is definitely helpful information as we transfer some of our investments to lower-fee funds.

  3. May 1, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I am on the verge of downsizing from 915 sqft to 615 sq ft with a teen. Should prove interesting! But the upside is that we are in the midst of building up our purge pile. I think about the money spent on this stuff and now I don’t want or need these items. Now I am donating or giving them away.

    As for the moto rental that’s a great deal. I’ve just heard RV Co. doing similar. I definitely need to check that option out when I am in the market for one… long from now…. when the debt is gone and the money saved up. Hmmm… that will be awhile for me.

    • Mrs. Grumby
      May 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Good luck with the downsize! Great to hear that you’ve found some stuff to get rid of. The awareness of the $ value of these items will certainly help to make more mindful purchase decisions in the future.
      Love the after-debt RV idea. In the meantime, here’s to affordable adventures while you build your savings. :o)

  4. May 13, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Sounds like a great wedding! Gotta love that BBQ! I hear you may be passing through our area next year? Not only do we hope you’ll be picking up garbage with Mr. G but you must try NC BBQ with us!

    Do you use a shredder for all that paper? We have one but I hate doing it. Luckily our town sponsors a shredding fest twice a year. We can drove over to the parking lot where it’s held and watch our stuff being torn to smithereens.

    One suggestion on the possible HSA reimbursements – scan everything. Keep the receipts but they will fade in just a few years.

    • Mrs. Grumby
      May 13, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Hi Mrs. Groovy! That would be great to help Mr. G. pick up trash and NC BBQ with you 2 is, of course, a must. Our plan right now is to start our counter-clockwise USA bicycle tour in June, 2018 so we might be in your neighborhood around spring of 2019. Hopefully you won’t decide to move to MT before then!

      We actually got rid of our shredder during one of our downsizes, but there’s one in the lobby of our apartment building that we can use if we have a light load. Otherwise, we keep an eye out for shred events.

      Great idea on the receipt scans for HSA reimbursement.

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