Frogdancer Jones has moved!

I’ve moved!!!

Not as far away as this shot – this is Pyongyang, North Korea, taken on my last morning there from the window of our hotel.

You can now find me at https://burningdesireforfire.com

Please change your feed reader/bookmark etc right now, while it’s on the top of your mind. I’d hate to lose you.

What does Oscar Wilde say? “To lose one reader may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

Looking forward to seeing both my readers at the other site!

FI = choice in how you spend your time.

We’re really extremely fortunate to live in the time and places that we do.

Izzy’s leukaemia is very treatable. Twenty years ago it would have been a death sentence, said her specialist. She would have had to undergo bone-marrow transplants and chemo. But now? Assuming that her bone-marrow biopsy doesn’t have any nasty surprises, all she’ll have to do is to take a pill every day for a few short years and then she should be fine.

Amazing news. We’re all very relieved.

This shot is from this morning’s beach walk with the dogs. It was around 9AM, about an hour before it started to rain. We’re allowed on the beach with our leash-free dogs until 10 AM in the summer, so there were plenty of people with the means or the opportunity to sneak a walk in with their dogs.

Lots of pure-bred dogs, ranging from Labradors, GSDs,  and Greyhounds right down to a pair of Scottie dogs, a couple of Pugs and an irascible Pomeranian, with a sprinkling of mixed-breeds running around. Everyone was in a good mood, and how could we not be? The smell of the sea was in the air, it was warm and the dogs were all having such a good time. Every time we passed people, we’d nod and exchange a few words while the dogs investigated each other, tails wagging.

Lots of retired people, with a few people on holidays such as my good self, with some kids enjoying the freedom of the summer holidays.

Soon, alas, I’ll be in a classroom at 9AM every Friday. By then, I will have called the roll, let them check their emails and then we’d be just starting the 10-minute silent reading or writing that I start the classes off with each period. Probably by 9:10 AM, just as Poppy, Jeff, Scout and I were setting foot on the sand, I’d be getting the kids to put their books away and we’d be starting the lesson.

It’s little things like this that keep nudging me on the road to FI/RE. There’s no real pleasure in reflecting that this will be me in a fortnight:

Working towards FI? You’re really working towards being able to choose how you spend your time.

Me?

At 9 AM every Friday, I’d rather be looking at this:

 

When the rug gets pulled out from under you.

When I’m working, I get up before the sun. I leave at around 7AM and drive for 50 minutes or so, walking into the staff room just as the place is starting to get that “buzz” as people arrive. There’s always banter between people, but when the locker bell rings we know that the countdown has begun. At 8:50 AM the bell for period 1 rings and the day ticks inexorably onwards until the final bell at 3:10 PM.

There’s always the sound of children. In class, of course, but during recess and lunchtime there’s no escaping that noise. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a happy noise of kids talking, laughing, calling out to each other – but it’s constant. Kids are right outside the staff room windows, so sometimes we put the blinds down if we see them peering in.

The school I teach at has around 2,300 kids. That’s a lot of noise, buzz and activity.

Whereas right now, the only thing I hear is the sound of the keys on my keyboard and the air conditioner softly going. Ryan24 has just walked down the hall to talk about something with me. My phone rang and Tom26 and I had a quick chat, because he was at work.

This morning we found out that David25’s girlfriend has leukaemia.

It’s funny how when bad news hits you just want to touch base with family. As soon as David25 left to be with Izzy, I rang my sister and my best friend. When Tom26 heard, he talked to his Mum.

Ryan24 came to tell me that apparently her style of the disease has an 80% success rate and they think they’ve caught it early.

She’s only 21.

I’m here, with the sound of the keys on the laptop, the gentle sound of the air conditioner and the warmth of Jeff snuggled up beside me even though the day is too hot for him to be doing it. With news like this, I’m glad I’m home. It’s pure chance that it wasn’t a normal Tuesday, where I’d be surrounded by thousands of people and their concerns. I don’t have to put my game-face on and pretend that the only thing on my mind is teaching the proper essay techniques they need to know to get a good mark.

I can take the time to sit and think of her and my son. They’ve been going out for around 18 months. They met at uni when they were doing the same music course. He absolutely adores her. Her family is one of the closest-knit families I’ve ever seen and there’s no doubt they’ll rally around her with all the love and support that you could wish for.

It’s such a shock.

This isn’t a ‘proper’ FI post.

I guess it’s just a reminder to cherish the people you’re going through life with. Expectations and all the plans in the world can be derailed without the slightest warning.

Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

Go and hug a friend.

 

What has my second-gen FIRE child learned about frugality?

Right from when they were very small, my children have watched me buy in bulk when non-perishables have been on sale, then helped me lug them home and store them in towering piles in the pantry or watched me decant into smaller, more user-friendly containers.

When I was in San Gimignano in Italy in 2015, one of the souvenirs I bought was this olive oil tin. I knew I’d use it and I love it still. I buy 4L tins of olive oil from Aldi and simply decant into my olive oil ‘watering can’ when it runs dry. It’s a similar idea to the non-stick spatula* I bought last year in North Korea. A useful souvenir is a good souvenir!

So what has my 24-year-old son done?

 

Ryan24 is half-way through his Remedial Massage course at RMIT. When massage oil was on the book list for this year, he bought in bulk. He’s bought smaller bottles to decant the oil into for when he goes to classes. Of course, as any second-gen FIRE frugal person would do, he made sure that the unit price for the bulk oil was far cheaper than for 1L bottles.

I’m very proud.

I just hope I don’t ever mistake it for a wine cask one dark night!

(This last photo has nothing to do with the post. I simply thought that some people might want to see the spatula of choice for people in North Korea.)

* I bought this spatula when we were allowed to wander around the supermarket in Pyongyang, North Korea, for 45 minutes on our own, surrounded by ordinary people doing their daily shopping. I saw these spatulas, thought, ‘Hey, I need one of these,’ and brought it home with me. 

Every time I make pancakes I remember my trip. 🙂

A totally scientific experiment. Or metaphor. Or something.

Earlier this week I wrote a post about The Single Advantage, where I wrote about the path to FI as a single person.

Yesterday, on my daily walk with Poppy, Jeff and Scout, it occurred to me that this was the perfect time to do a totally scientific experiment to see if my post was accurate.

You see, Poppy and Jeff have been partners since they were in the womb together and they always go for walks on a brace lead. This is simply a leash for 2 dogs which is in a ‘Y’ shape, so I only have to hang on to one loop.

Scout, being the baby sister of the pack, came along later so she has her own lead.

Which lead is the most efficient? The ‘couple’ lead, or the ‘single’ lead? WHAT a metaphor for life! How could anyone possibly say that this is unrealistic?

Ok. My hypothesis is that the two different leads accurately depict two different pathways to FI – one as a couple and one as a single. For the purposes of this experiment, we’ll assume that both the couple and the single are starting from the same position, (a wild enthusiasm to get to FI as quickly as possible), and they have the same goal in mind, (to have a fully-paid-off kennel and to never need to fetch tennis balls again, unless they choose to.)

I had the materials needed. The dogs were raring to go, my phone was in my hand and I was filled with the thirst for scientific endeavour. Off we set around the block to make financial research history!

It was clear right from the start that when Poppy and Jeff were in synch, they were unstoppable. Shoulder to shoulder, facing the same way, they forged ahead of Scout. They make a great team. The fully-paid-off kennel of their dreams is well within reach.

“It’s not fair! There’s 2 of them and I have very little legs. They’re getting ahead of me and it’s not fair! They’re sharing the work, they have 2 food bowls and THEIR LEGS ARE LONGER.”

But hang on…

What starts to happen around every tempting aroma?

Scout takes the opportunity to nip past them as Jeff lifts his leg on investigates every conceivable thing on our path, thus slowing Poppy down and delaying their path to FI. In the interests of decorum, I won’t show you exactly what he was doing. This is a family-friendly blog, after all.

Oh no! While Poppy was waiting for Jeff to get back on task, she sees a bird! She goes out of shot to try and get closer, yanking him off-balance.

They’re completely off task now…

Meanwhile, Scout, her heart filled with joy at not having her dreams of FI and a fully-paid-for kennel delayed by a distracted partner, skips ahead with glee, her eyes on the prize. As for not needing to fetch tennis balls? She’s a modern independent woman and she LOVES her side-hustle of bringing back anything that’s thrown.

This is an action shot; joy requires movement and flopping ears. Please excuse any fuzzy edges in this shot. Science requires sacrifices from all of us to get to the truth.

 However, once Poppy and Jeff have some counselling and get their goals back into realignment, we all set off together.

The Cavaliers have been partners since birth – they’re not going to let anyone stop them! Whereas Scout is as stubborn as dachshunds normally are and she’ll get to her goals with or without a partner. “A man is not a financial plan” is her mantra.

Well, considering I call my place a glorified kennel, the result was never in doubt, was it? Here they all are, enjoying the fruits of their labour. No matter how tempting the scents, the birds and the possum poo along the way, they all got there in the end.

Scout’s route was by far the most focussed and direct, but Poppy and Jeff, when they decided to stop getting distracted on their individual interests and they started working together, were a force.

I know you want to know the results.

Amazingly, both leads ended up at our destination of FI and a fully-paid-off kennel at the same time. I know – I’m as surprised as you!!

What does this totally scientific and non-rigged experiment show?

We can all get to our goals, regardless of our relationship status.

Scout’s little legs meant that she had to take more steps than the others to get there, but she made it in the end. Poppy and Jeff were sometimes pulled off-course by their partner, but they got back on track and also got to their destination.

And now everyone’s sleeping on the couch, safe and happy.

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad result for any of us!

 

If it gets measured, it gets managed. (I hope.)

I’m a firm believer that if you find a strategy that works for you, KEEP DOING IT.

Then, if possible, see how you can utilise that winning strategy in other ways.

It’s January 9, 2019, and I thought I’d share a little experiment I’m doing to see if I can manage my time more productively.

Clearly, filling in charts works for me. 2019 is the third year I’ve been tracking my spending using my handy-dandy “No Spend Days” chart that I’ve blogged about before.

This year, I thought I’d use the same ‘colouring in’ type of chart to map other areas of my life that I want to improve in. At the end of every day, I’ll log onto the cloud and add that day’s totals to the chart. At the end of the week, I get to colour-in every square that has a full week’s worth of completed tasks.

I know… it sounds stupid and babyish, but the visual reward seems to work for me. So last week I began to fill in the chart every night. It only takes 2 seconds.

After a few days of doing this, I added an important modification.

What if I have a really busy day and some of the tasks simply can’t get done? That’s hugely de-motivating for the rest of the week. No way to earn success by colouring-in.   😦

So I added the yellow to mark the squares where I only missed by one day.

I think this is important. I can just see myself writing off the entire week because I didn’t get home from work till 8PM on a Monday night, for example, and I couldn’t do anything in the garden or walk the dogs. This chart is meant to get me doing things, not giving me the excuse to sign off altogether! So I get a second chance with the yellow.

Theoretically, I could award myself a kaleidoscope of colours, but I want to hold myself accountable, so I figure one day’s grace in each task should be enough.

Here are the tasks broken down with a bit more detail:

  1. Write every day. This is linked with column number 2. These posts take a long time to write and so if I’m going to hit my target I’ll have to be far more disciplined with when I try and contact my muses. Only writing when I ‘feel like it’ isn’t a good strategy.
  2. Post 3 times a week. This is hard to do with the full-time job. Those pesky students demand that their teacher actually engages with them and teaches them stuff. Outrageous! Hence the need for column number 1.
  3. Walk dogs. My long commute has meant that some days I get home and feel too tired to take the dogs out. Poppy, Jeff and Scout deserve better. I knew that this was going to be a goal of mine in 2019, so I bought a dedicated dog walking bag from America. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s very sturdy. I figure it’ll probably see out these puppers so it’s a good investment. Everything I need is in it – I just have to grab it and go. If I can remove any barriers to getting tasks done, then it’s worth it.
  4. No junk food. It may be hard for some of you to imagine, but although Frogdancer Jones may write like a skinny girl, she’s actually the tubbiest she’s ever been. To be honest, it’s probably wine that’s the main culprit here but I’m not ready to deal with ditching the shiraz just yet. Junk food is next. This is easy to cut out in the holidays, but I’m wondering how I’ll go during term time… Blogless Brock has a desk just across from mine and he has what he calls “The Milk Bar”, which is a set of large glass jars full of different lollies. He hands them out to anyone in need of a quick ‘pick me up’. Unfortunately, he hates green snakes while I LOVE them. This is going to be a big test of my character once school starts again.
  5. Clean. I hate housework. I could never understand why until I read an article that explained why Virgos love order but hate cleaning. It’s because we love to do a job properly right at the start, so that it never has to be re-done. Cleaning definitely doesn’t fit that bill! I keep my house very tidy, but if I have a spare hour free, I’m going to elect to spend it reading a book rather than getting out the Spray and Wipe and giving the kitchen benches a good going over just for the sake of it. So I get the boys to do it in lieu of paying me board, or I invite people over for dinner. THEN I’ll clean like crazy! So I need to do a little something every day to get myself into the habit.
  6. Garden. This one is easier for me to do, but I was still noticing that my front yard was looking a bit raggedy. I decided that if I take care of one task a day, (watering the veggies doesn’t count!), then the overall job of maintaining the look of The Best House in Melbourne will be much easier.
  7. Read a book. I don’t mean a whole book! I didn’t make my Goodreads goal of reading 80 books last year – I fell short by 7 – but I would have easily hit that target if I wasn’t reading so many blogs, tweets and FB entries. I have to remind myself to chip away at that goal. To be honest, this one is probably the easiest one of all for me. I’m addicted to reading.

Anyway, there it is. I’m interested to see if using the chart will give me the motivation to kick some goals with these goals.

Let’s see if the old saying is true – “If it gets measured, it gets managed!”

The Single Advantage.

I think that the road to financial independence as a single has a big and clear advantage. There’s a reason why a ship only has one captain and why too many cooks spoil the broth.

I’m a member of a few “Single FI” threads on FB and I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in the last couple of weeks with people having a whinge about how much harder it is for singles to reach Financial Independence in a world apparently geared for couples. According to these people, housing is more expensive, food is more expensive, entertainment is definitely more expensive. It’s not fair! Those selfish couples with their unfair societal advantages are rubbing their privileged FIRE journeys into our disadvantages singes’ faces!!!

At first, I was just “meh” about it. I don’t know these people and I have no way to walk in their shoes. However, as more and more people started chiming in, it got me thinking.

Why is my thinking about financial independence as a single so different?

I’ve been single for the last 21 years, ever since I left my husband. I walked away with my 4 boys aged 5, 3, 2 and 11 months. For the first 4 years, I was supporting us and paying a mortgage on the Sole Parents’ Pension, which (from memory) was around 18K a year. After my youngest son started school, I began working full-time as a teacher.  People ‘pooh-pooh’ teacher’s wages, even in Australia, but compared to the pension I felt we were on Easy Street.

So, long story short, for the last 21 years my family has been supported by one wage, controlled by one person. Why do I see this as not necessarily the disadvantage that others do?

Yes, on paper it would have been far easier if I’d been fortunate enough to meet someone compatible who could bring another wage into the household. Imagine all the investments we could have made once the mortgage was paid off?? We’d be rolling in money!

But I don’t know that it would have automatically happened quite like that.

Lifestyle creep appears to happen with almost every couple I’ve ever seen. Sure, the prudent ones max out their super funds and put aside money for investments and for a rainy day. The really smart ones have a healthy ‘FU Fund’ like the one I have. But even so, as life goes on and couples start to earn more, the little luxuries start to become part of the everyday. Clothes get nicer. Cars get newer. Houses get bigger. Holidays get more glamorous and are often spent further away from home. No more caravan park holidays at the Rye back beach! Now it’s taking the family to Thailand or Fiji or, (if you really want to make it memorable), to Iceland to see the Northern Lights.

The food budget goes up too. Not just on the average shop, but also when eating out. Dinner parties at home become far less common, even for lunches. Everyone wants to go out to eat. Theatre tickets replace movie tickets and lunches at wineries replace picnics in the park.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course. You’ve both worked hard to get where you are and you deserve to taste some of the finer things in life. Your wife/husband/partner or yourself earned that big promotion and the expectation of the people around you at that new job is that you look the part. So, gradually, you do. It’s human nature to blend in with the tribe, after all.

I’m sure that with even the best will in the world, even the most perfect partner will come with some expenses in tow. There is no way that a man or woman would say, “Here’s my entire pay packet. Take it and invest it for our future. I have no wants, needs or desires. None whatsoever!”

Of course, some single people also fall prey to lifestyle creep. But when you’re on your own, it’s just YOU making the choices. I remember some of the (what I thought was) stupid things my ex-husband used to spend money on. So annoying. But I’ll bet that he could say the exact same thing about me. Everyone has things that individually drive them and if you’re snugly coupled-up, you have to accommodate the other person’s things, or you won’t be very snug for very long!

 

Rather than focusing on what we as singles don’t have –

2 X the pay packet;

someone to lift heavy things and open jars;

unbridled romance every time s/he walks through the door…

– we singles should be happy for the clear advantage of what we do have:

The opportunity to set a financial game plan in place and execute it without another person’s distractions or agenda getting in the way.

That’s huge.

It’s also an advantage that each person who’s single has, regardless of how much income they bring in.  Of course,  couples may very well be on the same financial page, working together for the benefit of their relationships, but we all know that it’s not the truth for each and every couple.

But we singles can choose the destiny of every dollar we bring in. On the path to FI, that’s not to be sneezed at.

There’s a lot to be said for personal, as well as financial independence.

🙂