Every once in a while, everything falls into place! It’s been almost 2 years since we walked away from the 9-5 jobs. September was a long-awaited “Ah-ha!” moment for me. Two big things happened for me in September.
I worked. And I rested.
And it was AMAZING!
Ok, let me unpack that a bit more.
I worked: I generally tinker around with my blog stuff for an hour, two hours, maybe three hours a day. I write. I read. I email with awesome readers and blogger friends. I respond to comments. I chat with people on Skype. You know, really hard work.
Septemeber was different. I legit worked. And I loved it. I put in almost a normal amount of work hours for two whole weeks, people! To call it 9-5 might be a stretch. But it wasn’t just an hour of my normal tinkering either.
I organized, wrote and filmed two entire courses in two weeks! Now granted, I had been thinking, planning and rolling these ideas around in my head for, um, like 8 months. But making them wasn’t even the awesome part.
I sent out a sign-up to my very cool email subscribers for a beta-run of my Mini-Retirements Mastered course, and in 12 hours the whole thing was full up. THEN the fun started. All these ideas I had pulled together, this whole process I had created…I got to watch an amazing group of people apply that to their lives! And it was pure magic for me. All the feedback, transformation, and changes made me want to cry tears of joy. That was the just the first two weeks.
Then I rested.
The last two weeks…well. I wrote a bit. Went out to dinner with friends. Had friends come visit. Hiked on the cool autumn days. Did my 4 workouts a week. Hung out with my kids from the moment they stepped off the bus till bedtime. Read a few books. Took about a dozen soaks in the tub. Dried everything that grows in our oven and new (to us) dehydrator: apples, bananas, mint, tomatoes, deer jerky, plums, raspberry leaves.
And I spent some time with the folks working through the courses. We emailed. We chatted in our private fb group. I did a few ridiculous fb live videos with my dog cheesy taco. I skyped with a few people.
Every once in a while in life, we get these little glimpses that say, “Oh, THIS. This is what I should be doing.” September was one of those glimpses for me.
While I have always loved blogging. The course was an entirely different experience. I loved the small, personal feel. I loved getting to know everyone, the stories, and their plans. Through the videos, worksheets, and process, I was able to teach a huge, overwhelming idea, step by step in a manageable way over 3 weeks. Then I was able to witness the transformation up close. The plans changed, the timelines changed, the clarity of what people wanted out of life, the perspectives changed.
I’ll be forever grateful to the 25 brave, supportive folks who jumped first with me in this journey. I’m so excited to follow each of your journeys over the next few years and see how these plans take shape!
Plus it was just calmer. Last year Adam took a few college classes. He wanted to try a few things and learn a few new skills, like electrical wiring and welding. Not that he had any desire to do those as a full-time job, just something he had always been interested in. A mini-retirement seemed like the perfect time to explore those interests. And that was great. Except…. it kind of made things a bit hectic. Just sort of this rushed feeling most weeks. It was still a 100x better than life had been while we were working, so I didn’t mind or notice too much.
But this semester, he is taking a break from college classes. This is better.
(Mini-Retirements Mastered isn’t available right now. I’m going back in and polishing the whole thing up plus adding some cool new features! But it will be available to everyone by the end of November! It won’t be open year round. Just once or twice a year, so we can work through it as a group. Make sure you sign up for my email newsletter to be notified when it opens up again.)
Monthly Spending: $1829
September was kind of our basic core expenses with normal life. No long trips and travel. No big bills came due. We did stock up on quite a few things at Costco. Our grocery bill not only includes things like food but also personal care items like razors, soaps, toothpaste and paper products. We bought 6 sticks of deodorant and about a 2 years supply of razors!
The best parts of our month rarely show up on in our expenses, with travel being the exception. The smoke finally cleared up in September so we were outside enjoying the fall weather constantly.
We did a few trips to Flathead Lake. Hiked in local state parks. Went to city parks. Took part in a few free community events. Played in the yard and garden. And I spent almost every day dehydrating one thing or another.
Giving this month: $226 Beings our giving comes from its own Giving Fund, instead of our passive income, I decided to start showing it here instead of in our pie chart to make that easier to read.
Year to date expenses: $19,908. $2542 under our passive income for the year!
Year to date giving: $7386
New license plate: We have “permanent plates” on all our vehicles so we never need to pay to register them again. But one was torn off during our trip, so we had to pay to replace it! Beings it was torn off due to travel, we put that expense under “vacation”. Lamest vacation expense EVER.
Total cost: $40
Clean the van:
To be honest, our van is almost always a disaster. With 5 kids who seem only able to carry a stack of artwork into the van but not out….it gets crazy fast. After 2 weeks on the road in August, the ick factor was high. My amazing hubby detailed the whole inside at the car wash, all the way to washing the mats!
Total cost: $10.50
Cereal Sale: Twice a year the local grocery stores have a huge cereal sale and we stock up. A few dozen boxes later….
Total cost: $52
Plums: We spent an afternoon picked over 20lbs of plums at a private orchard. It was a first for the kids and a lot of fun over an unexpected 5 day weekend. Days of eating fresh plums and drying them ensued.
Total cost: $12
Food dehydrator: After a few rounds of drying our autumn harvest in the oven and having a blast with that, we started thinking about a dehydrator. Instead of buying one new, we decided to start with a used one, just in case. $10 later, it’s made a few rounds of apple chips, banana chips and dried raspberry leaves for tea.
Total cost: $10
We switched our cell phone plans which save us $30+ each month (From $66 to $27 for both phones). I wanted to be intentional about finding little things to spend that extra money on that add a TON of value for the price. It’s been a fun mental exercise to focus on finding stuff to buy that I might have passed on otherwise.
So I am experimenting with this idea. I call it my “Joy Money.” One of the awesome things about going frugal on fixed expenses (like our cell phones) is each month there is all this extra money. You can use it to pay down debt, supercharge your investing or in this case….add a little joy.
September’s Joy Money purchase: I’m a big fan of celebrating! We generally keep our expenses low, but we always want to carve out a little money and time to celebrate. So in September, we bought a pinata, some candy, set up the bouncy house, and had a few friends over to celebrate our kids “gotcha day” aka adoption day. Two years ago we stood in court in front of friends and family and became a family officially!
I can’t think of a better way to spend this joy money than celebrating things that we are already so grateful for!
Total Joy Money Spent: $22
I started a new category in our monthly expenses to see how we are doing on our “work optional” life as we continue with our mini-retirement.
- Can we really just do a bit of work that we love, instead of going back to the 9-5 grind?
- Can we focus on things we find interesting and best leverages our skills or passion instead of just things that pay the most?
- Can we work/volunteer and actually still have space for the rest of our life, like family time, travel and long days at the lake?
- If people don’t have 1 million + net worth, how do average folks piece this thing together to create their most meaningful life?
5 Bucket Method
If you are just tuning in around here, here is the lay of our financial land. We use a 5 bucket system. It’s extremely useful for anyone trying to custom design their life. It’s perfect if you want to take a year off to travel, try to launch a side hustle into a full business, go part-time at work for a few years, or retire early. It’s a great method for any financial transition where you are trying to create a life more in line with your goals and values.
Depending on your situation and goals, you would customize these buckets to meet your needs.
Bucket 1: Fixed Passive Income
Rentals: $1200 a month after all expenses
Military Retirement Pension: $1450 a month
We use bucket 1 to cover all our basic living expenses. I don’t include investments into this bucket. Rentals, pensions, loan repayments, royalties or anything you have little choice if you “pull” from it or not.
We recently completed a major renovation, increasing our rental income by $200 this summer. Over the next few years, we will continue to invest in this rental to position it as a “mid-priced or premium” rental. Our total budget is $10,000 for the updates.
Bucket 2: Cash Buffer
Cash buffer: About $55,000 (this includes our Giving Fund, which funds our charitable giving each month and our Rental Fund.)
- We use this bucket to fill the gap in our basic expenses if needed.
- We give donations from this bucket.
- We also use it for one-time large purchases or emergencies.
Bucket 3: Investments
Our investments don’t go into our passive income bucket because when you are creating a flexible lifestyle early on, these buckets might function very differently.
Because we don’t need to tap this bucket yet, we will continue to let compound interest to do its thing. We might also fill it with some extra money from bucket 4 (side hustle).
$633 a month right now with 4% withdrawal.
Untouched for another 6 years it would provide about $1,000 in monthly income, growing at 8% to $295,000 with a 4% withdrawal.
That isn’t to say that we will use it in that way. Investments provide a host of options because it’s one of many buckets.
- We might pull a lump sum to purchase other rentals.
- We might use 2% in 6 years as our expenses grow (bigger kids, bigger food bills).
- If we use it for “extras” instead of basic living expenses, we might pull 5-6%, knowing that in low market years we wouldn’t pull any money from it or only 1-2%. For example, when it grows to $300,000, we might pull $15,000 (5%) one year to take a 3 month trip to Europe. If the next year, a big market drop happens, we might pull $3,000 (1%) to take a 6 week US camping trip.
Bucket 4: Side Hustle/Extra Income
This bucket would include any extra income you produce. If you are growing a business, that income would go here. As would a profitable hobby, income producing passion project, or side hustle.
Because the first 3 buckets cover all our needs and wants, we currently use this bucket as “extra.” Extra money for investments to help those grow faster (bucket 3). Extra money for giving. Right now, I reinvest most of this income into business expenses plus classes, mentors, and information products.
Because ours is just earmarked for giving or business expenses, we get to be really picky about what kinds of projects we take on and how much we do.
The beta run of the Mini-Retirement Masted course brought in enough money to pay for all the hosting, graphic design and audio upgrades. I’m going to be retooling the entire course, plus adding some expert interviews in October and early November. While it’s currently not available, it should be ready for a new group of students by the end of November!
The other course I created was born out of the 1-on-1 blog coaching I started in the spring. I decided to put all the ideas and process I was teaching to other new bloggers into one place. Partly because I had to turn away a number of mentoring clients because my schedule was full, and this is a way I can still help. Plus for those who the cost of 1-on-1 mentoring is just too expensive, this course is a great alternative. It’s literally everything I teach. But at a fraction of the price.
You can check it out here: Before You Blog. There is a promo video on that page that explains everything the course covers! (If you are a blogger and would be interested in offering this to your readers as an affiliate, just shoot me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our tax returns also go into this bucket earmarked to fill our giving fund.
2016 Tax return: $5,500
Extra Income (year to date) : $9,698
Bucket 5: Future Passive Income
Rental Mortgage 1 payoff: + $189 a month
$38,000 balance on rental house 1. There are 25 years left on this mortgage. The interest rate is 2.85%.
Rental Mortgage 2 payoff: +$512 a month
$96,000 balance on rental house 2. There are 27 years left on this mortgage. The interest rate is 4.35%.
We might pay these off earlier to increase our monthly passive income.
Social Security: Who knows?
My current assumption is that there will be a small amount of money that will start around age 70. I’ll start more carefully considering this in about 20 years. Right now I have it earmarked as extra money for health care costs or vacations with grandkids.
Conclusion: Mini-retirement still going strong!
Our moving target: doing exactly the right amount of all the stuff we love and is important to us. No matter if it’s family time, traveling, writing, mentoring, gardening, renovations, hiking, volunteering or hanging out with friends. It’s all just stuff we love. =)
Are you getting back into the autumn routine?
Do you ever buy a used version before going all in on the new item you actually want?
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