The Monthly Downsizer: March 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.

The Grumbys picked the downsizing and expense reduction mojo back up again in March. And we also managed to manufacture some happiness during another month of pretty gloomy weather.

Stuff

We stepped up our downsizing activity in March because, guess what? We’re moving again! Even though there won’t be a reduction in the square footage of our living space, everyone knows that moving is the perfect opportunity to get rid of stuff. Right? (Details on the ‘why’ of this decision are below in the Money section.)

GrumbyCat Shrine

The most meaningful farewell to stuff during March was related to re-homing GrumbyCat’s belongings. We knew from the experience of losing our dogs in 2015 that this is very helpful to the healing process. Our friend Michael was able to use her remaining food and litter, and one of our neighborhood pet stores collects donations for local shelters. The employees were thrilled to see us walk in with a cat perch, food bowls, toys, and a cat carrier and told us about 2 shelters that would love these donations. We kept a brush and a toy to display on our GrumbyCat Shrine, and we are happy that most of her things will now be used to bring joy to the lives of other cats and their humans.

We also shared our love of books by donating some of ours to the library. Books are wonderful companions and powerful symbols of our interests and knowledge, but we won’t be able to take them with us on our bike tour. And it’s sad to think of them sitting in a box in sister Grumby’s basement when they could be resting in the hands of someone as they take delight in the journey of turning each page. Mr. Grumby even decided to pass on his beloved Lonesome Dove book! The good thing is that we’ll both still be able to enjoy the great Augustus McCrae quotes that regularly pop into Mr. G’s head.

Each time we’re able to pass our possessions on to someone who will be able to put them to good use, I feel happy that our things will continue to serve a purpose and I have a greater appreciation for what we still own.

Money Matters (because it does, you know)

Whoopsidaisies!

That’s NOT what Mr. Grumby said when he discovered that we owed $2563 for 2016 taxes. Really, it was good news, because it meant that our investments performed well last year.

Expense Reduction Opportunity

Regardless of the good news on our investment results, I always see an expense increase in one area as an opportunity to reduce expense somewhere else. Because our lease is up in May, I checked out our property management website to see if there were any vacancies that would save us money. To our good fortune there is a unit just down the hall that was advertised for $179/month less than our current rate. We had to jump through a few hoops to get this deal that was truly only available to new residents, but even after paying new application fees, we’ll still save a good chunk of dough. Over the 13 months of our new lease, we’ll save $2075 and adding in the $35/month pet rent savings our total housing expense reduction will be $2530. Hey! That’s pretty close to that nasty tax bill.

Q1 $$ Wins

But wait! There’s more! Here are a few victories in frugality for the first 3 months of the 2017 vs. Jan-Mar 2016:

  • Medical $793 less
  • Groceries $604 less
  • Entertainment $342 less

Aside from the tax hit, there were no other sad stories for Q1 Grumby Expenses. For that, we are grateful!

2017 Forecast

I hereby predict that 2017 Grumby expenses will come in at 10% below our 2016 expenses. And that we’ll see an increase in satisfaction, quality, and enjoyment.

 

Manufacturing Happiness in Gloomy Weather

Winter Picnics!

It’s fascinating to observe the behavior of Portlanders during winter sun breaks. Mr. Grumby and I are amongst the vitamin D-deprived that frantically scurry outside to absorb the fleeting warmth of that temporary glow in the gloomy sky. During 2 such opportunities in March, we quickly packed lunches and rode our bikes to our favorite parks for picnics. The ground surrounding our comfy bench was muddy and saturated with recent rainfall, but no matter! We had dry seats to park our derrieres, good food to eat, and it was sunny! The beautiful thing was that everyone shared in this vitamin D-infused giddiness. Toddlers giggled as they played hide and seek with their parents amongst Peninsula Park’s hedges. And we giggled with them. When we rode to Mt. Tabor a couple weeks later there was nary a face without a toothy smile. Even the 4-legged visitors shared in the whimsical frolic of sun break spirit.

Hanging out with Friends and Family

Monkey and Pig are happy in their new home with Nora

During some of the too-rainy moments of March, our moods were brightened by spending time with loved ones. Some friends invited us over to their home for a delicious dinner and an evening spent sharing stories and laughing at their silly dog, Nora. I forgot to mention in the ‘Stuff’ section that we finally found a home for the last of the GrumbyDog toys. These poor toys had been sitting neglected on my closet shelf and are now happy members of Nora’s toy collection. It feels so good to know that Pig and Monkey are being loved by a goofy dog again!

We also enjoyed a brunch treat with my sister at one of our favorite Portland breakfast spots. Thanks, Sooze! It was great to catch up with her and enjoy a rare meal out on the town. She filled us in on the latest happenings with her kids and grandkids and we filled our happy bellies with the World Famous Garden Scramble and the Super Saucer … yum!

 

 

Gratitude

I mentioned in last month’s post that the souvenir we brought back from our vacation to AZ was our friends’ gratitude practice. Every night before we eat dinner we take a few minutes to share ‘the gratitudes’ of the day. Once you start looking for things for which you’re grateful, they seem to appear much more frequently.

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. John Lubbock

If 100 Australes was worth US $.01, then 500,000 Australes was worth US $50. And that 10 Australes note at the coin shop? Nada!

We were selling a few coins at a coin shop and I noticed a 10 Australes note from Argentina in a display case. I spent a year in Argentina in the early 90’s at the tail end of a period of unnerving hyperinflation. The 100 Australes bill was worth one US penny when I first arrived. I suddenly felt a rush of gratitude for our stable currency. People here complain about gas prices and rent increases, but most people have no idea what it feels like to live year after year with 300% inflation. I remember meeting people regularly who had to work 3 jobs just to make ends meet. How lucky I was that my only financial risk as a foreign student in Argentina was my timing on exchanging money. Most of what I had was always in stable US Dollars.

 

Wrap-up

What happens when you step off of the consumer treadmill and decide to live more simply? Money does not lose its importance, but undergoes a shift in power. Rather than being owned by the Great Marketing Machine, your money suddenly becomes … yours. You are the boss of your money! And when you’re not out buying sh*t you don’t need, your perception of your belongings also changes. You might realize that owning less stuff actually makes you happier. Maybe the stuff you don’t need could really boost someone else’s happiness? And when you don’t have too much stuff, there is more space in your brain to notice life’s small wonders. Suddenly you’re grateful for your bowl of oatmeal and the many hands that were involved in making your breakfast possible.

 

Downsizing and Spending and Gratitude, oh my!

What have you gotten rid of lately that was of great use to someone else?

Do you have any Q1 (March-January) expense reduction victories to share?

What are you grateful for today that you may not have noticed yesterday?

 

Bonus Question: what is your favorite quote from Lonesome Dove?

 

Here’s a link to The Monthly Downsizer: April 2017

 

  6 Replies to “The Monthly Downsizer: March 2017”

  1. April 13, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Just found your blog and look forward to your continued journey.

    I would imagine downsizing to such a size forces one to go outside more (which would be okay if my experience). Do you every come across worry or concern that you do all this downsizing and the end result may not happen? I am in that situation right now where I may be downsizing and put the difference in rent to pay off my debt. but I’ve been in debt all my adult life. So can I be sure to make things happen this time? (One will see).

    Condolences on your loss.

    • Mrs. Grumby
      April 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Thank you for your kind words.

      We definitely get outside much more than we used to – it’s a great downsizing side effect!

      It definitely crosses my mind that our plans may shift. Our portfolio may end up being less robust than we hope, or one/both of us may not be healthy enough to do long-term bike touring. What this process has taught us is that flexibility and open-mindedness are great catalysts for creativity and possibility.

      Sounds like you have a great plan for eliminating your debt. If you’re blogging about it, it’s sure to happen this time!

  2. April 30, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    I love this post! Nice work on the $2530 housing reduction, as well as all the steps you’ve taken with moving to make 1/19/19 a reality!

    By the way, have you looked at the website lately of the Cup and Saucer? I happened to click the link and they have an advisory posted for people who’ve eaten in two of their establishments during March 22 to the 29th.

    • April 30, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      Hey Mrs. Groovy. Thanks for stopping by! Our big rent reduction move is happening on May 19, and we appreciate the encouragement. :o)

      My sister mentioned the bad news about Cup and Saucer, but I thought we were there before dates mentioned in the warning. Now that I’m looking at their website again I see that’s not the case. Yikes! I’ll send my doctor a message tomorrow. Thanks for asking about this. How cool is it that someone on the other side of the country is looking out for us. You rock!

      • May 2, 2017 at 2:27 pm

        Just checking back. I’m thinking it was a false alarm but better safe than sorry!

        • Mrs. Grumby
          May 2, 2017 at 2:55 pm

          Thanks for checking back! That was me (Mrs. G) that accidentally replied using Mr. G’s logon last time. :o)
          I think we’re safe (whew!). We both got vaccines before we went to Ecuador in 2006 that should be good for 20 or so years.
          Definitely better safe than sorry, especially when it’s something that can spread so easily!

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