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.
During the first month of 2017, we strategized for the next downsize, enjoyed Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month Challenge, and upsized time with family during a trip to Colorado.
Version 1 of our plan for downsizing to a home-free life on 2 bicycles involves allotting our various possessions a fixed number of 22″L x 15″W x 12″H (12 gallon) storage bins. We want our remaining belongings to fit into the smallest possible moving truck and into a 5’W x 8’L space in Sister Grumby’s basement. Here’s a go at how the allotment will work:
- Mrs. Grumby’s clothes and personal items: 3-4
- Mr. Grumby’s clothes and personal items: 4-6 (Mr. Grumby has numerous “keepsake” bobbleheads)
- Camping gear excluding backpacks: 2
- Bike gear: 0 (because we’ll have it with us in 8 panniers and maybe 1 handlebar bag
- Home decor excluding wall hangings: 1-2 (Christmas decorations, decorative rocks, etc.)
- Gadgets /electronics: 1
- Books & DVDs: 1
- Bathroom stuff: 1-2
- Bedding (quilts, sheets, pillows, etc.): 2-3
- Furniture: 1 34″x 34″ table, 1 small dresser 27″W x 20″L x 36″ H, 2 chairs, a TV tray, and a stereo stand
- 3 medium and 2 small wall hangings
TOTAL BINS: between 18 and 25 … plus the few furniture items … will it all fit?
From our research, the cargo space of the smallest moving truck is 12’L x 7.5’W x 6.5’H, so there will be no problem fitting it all in the truck. As for the 5’Wx8’L space in Sister Grumby’s basement? 8 stacks of 3 bins would fill a space that’s about 8’Lx 2.5’W. That leaves the same amount of space for the furniture … we can take the table apart, so should be no problem!
Money Matters (because it does, you know)
Mr. Grumby and I were amongst the 10,000 or so people who participated in Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month Challenge during January. This is a brilliant (and 100% free!) opportunity to examine your spending habits and to discover ways to spend less and save more. Though we’re long-time fans of Mrs. F. and experienced frugalizers (is that a word?) we still found ways to spend less, save more, and to think outside the Big Consumer Box.
In the area of spending less/saving more, our big wins were:
- Groceries: $315 (OK, we did spend 5 days in Colorado – but this was $150 below our 2016 monthly average)
- Entertainment: $10 on Netflix ($123 below our 2016 average)
- Mobile phone: $32 because Mr. Grumby switched to Ting ($52 below the 2016 regular bill)
If we were to annualize all of these savings, the total would be a whopping $3,900 – in just these 3 categories. It’s not likely that we’ll consistently spend this little on groceries or entertainment, but I predict that we will spend about $2,500 less for groceries, entertainment, and mobile phone than we did in 2016. Just keep reading until our next big annual expense reveal in December and we’ll see if the prediction is accurate.
If you are interested in checking out the Uber Frugal Challenge, you can start at any time by just following this link and signing up.
Opportunities to think outside the Consumer Box
When we took GrumbyCat to the vet for some recent digestive woes, the veterinarian said that her symptoms were puzzling and that we could:
- have a complete blood panel done for about $300
- get an x-ray for about $200
- or make some minor diet adjustments, wait, and watch for $0 extra beyond the $60 consult fee
Our Pre-Frugal Selves likely would have made the emotional decision to spend $500 so that we could get an answer ASAP. But, because GrumbyCat’s symptoms don’t point in the direction of one illness or another, we chose the $0 option. It’s entirely likely that the tests, like her symptoms, would be inconclusive. We also know that she has a strong dislike of veterinary procedures, especially at her advanced age (going on 16!). So now we’re watching, waiting, and gathering more information. Hopefully next time we need to take her in we’ll have enough data gathered on her symptoms and behavior that we can help the vet help us make well-informed and careful decisions.
I also had a chance to conduct a little medical experiment on myself during a battle with the good ol’ common cold. I found that the Mucinex, Alka-Seltzer, and Benadryl were not effective and made me feel worse, so I decided to try some home remedies I found on the internet. Not only were they much less expensive and safer than the Cold Aisle alternatives, they also worked! Here are the ones I found most effective for:
- Reducing duration and intensity of a cold: as much rest as possible, lots of liquids (especially decaffeinated tea and soups), and cold sock treatment
- Nasal congestion: garlic tea (with added honey)
- Calming night time cough: ginger tea with cinnamon stick and honey right before going to bed
- Stopping coughing fits: How to Stop a Cough with Acupressure and Halls Honey Lemon cough drops
The 2 that surprised me the most were the garlic tea and the acupressure. The first time I tried the garlic tea, I felt an instant clearing of my nasal passages. And after a lifetime of struggling with embarrassing and painful coughing fits during cold/flu season, I was amazed at how quickly I was able to stop my cough with the acupressure treatment. The coughing phase of this cold only lasted 5 days. In the past, it was common for me to cough and struggle to sleep for 2-3 weeks. Here’s to the DIY cold treatment!
Family Gathering for Mom’s Birthday – a Worthy January Upsize
Downsizing stuff, expense, and stress means that we have more time and resources to channel elsewhere.
We travel to Colorado every January for my mom’s birthday. She celebrated number 85 this year, and this little detour* from our month of uber frugality was a worthwhile splurge. My mom was surrounded by 10-25 people who adore her for 5 days and we enjoyed good conversation, lots of laughter, games, meals together, and a few outings. Some highlights:
- We were helping our niece set up automatic student loan payments and one of the online forms asked her to provide a name for the account. Mr. Grumby suggested ‘Butthole Satan’ to capture that vile wickedness of the demonic debt, and it stuck. We all laughed so hard we cried, and it was a beautiful beginning to our niece conquering this financial obstacle. She has developed a brilliant plan to put Butthole Satan to rest in 5 years (avoiding $15k+ in interest payments!), and we’re looking forward to checking in with her so she can share stories about the diminishing powers of The Beast of Debt.
- We all went out for an early evening on the town, first stopping at Maria Empanada. These empanadas were, hands-down, the best empanadas I’ve had outside of Argentina. (If you are in Denver, you must go!) After this empanada deliciousness we took my mom to Grandma’s House, a taproom that feels like walking into Grandma’s living room. Amongst rocking chairs with afghans, a real boob tube, and oodles of knick knacks, 20 and 30-somethings (men and women) sat around needle pointing (not kidding!) as they enjoyed a pint of beer. My mom played Rumikub with with her grandsons and some of the rest of us sat a a big table and colored. Yes, they have lots of color crayons and coloring books, too.
One afternoon, we spent several hours in my mom’s townhome clubhouse – eating, chatting, playing games, and laughing. My cousin Don (age 55+) brought the game Twister. He said he’d received it for Christmas, but no one would play it with him. My brother, my nephew, Don, and I decided we needed to give it a try. As my sister-in-law called out the moves, we discovered pretty quickly why no one wanted to play Twister with Don. It really is a game designed for uber flexible 2nd graders who weigh no more than 50 pounds each! But, oh my, did we all have a good laugh!
* To follow up on our January travel splurge … actually, January is a very affordable month to travel. We got 2 round-trip tickets from Portland to Denver for $362 … not bad!
An Upsize/Downsize Version of the Hokey Pokey
You do an downsize here
You do an upsize there
You spend a little less here
So you can spend more over there
You see the fun in frugal and you do a little jig
Financial freedom’s a groovy gig!
What about You, Dear Readers?
Did any of you do the Uber Frugal challenge? If so, what did you think?
If not, are you gonna do it?
What do you think of our plan for a home-free life on touring bicycles?
Any tips and tricks for cold/flu season?
Here’s a link to The Monthly Downsizer: February 2017