To our new readers: We like to take a weekly trip into the land of others and learn just how they make life happen! Have you ever caught yourself asking ‘How do they do that’? It’s not a matter of comparing ourselves to the Joneses, it’s the willingness to seek knowledge and understanding so, you too, can make the choice whether or not you’re willing to do that. What trade-offs are you willing to make?
This week welcome Carrie from And In My Spare Time!
How Do They Do That: And In My Spare Time
My husband and I are just past 50 years old, although we can’t quite believe that. Where did those years go, I’m sure last time I checked I was only 28!
We have raised three beautiful girls; that obviously filled in some of those years, home-schooled, lived in remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia and started a business, hmm now I’m starting to see where those lost years went. Still we only feel like we are in our mid 30’s so I guess we had better make sure we have sufficient funds to do all the things we have on our bucket lists.
I operate a business that assists organisations managing aged and disability care programs in very remote locations in Australia. It takes me to some pretty spectacular locations from Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia down to the Central Australian outback and I travel a lot, I love what I do. My husband works full time out of choice, he says he gets bored when I am not around so he may as well work until I decide to retire, he might be working until he’s 70. Our girls have completed their schooling and two of them are off having their own adventures, the third still living at home with us.
With my husband’s income coming in on a fortnightly basis we can cover any regular bills and repayments. I make a lot more money each year than he does, but can go two or three months between payments depending on the timing of contracts.
1) What about retirement? Are you saving?
Yes, here in Australia we have Superannuation that is paid by our Employer. As a self-employed person it is up to me to make the contributions. I have a managed Super fund that I invest a lump sum into each year that is invested in shares.
As you can see from my website www.andinmysparetime.com we also invest in property. We started investing back in 1999 when we realised that with the low paid jobs that we had back then and time out of the workforce when raising kids, we would have very little in the way of retirement funds. Since then we have built up a small portfolio that will support us when we retire, even if our Super funds disappear. The foundation of our property portfolio was started when we had a lot lower income and were raising our girls.
2) How often do you vacation? Where does the money come from?
I travel so much for work that coming home is a vacation for me. However I am mindful that my office is also at home and I can often be found in there outside of normal 8am – 5pm hours. To remove the temptation to continually work we do take ourselves off for a holiday each year.
Previously, when the kids were younger, we did a lot of camping and fossicking holidays. This was our cheapest option due to the long distances we had to travel living in Central Australia. However our kids loved camping and the chance of finding a semi-precious stone and often reminisce about those times. Now that our kids have grown up my husband and I have been exploring the world beyond the shores of Australia. We prefer experiences over things, so travel is a priority for us. We have set up a separate account that we both put at least $50 into each week from our income.
3) Are you planning for college?
Here in Australia students can access Higher Education loans. It is not an expense that the average Australian would put money aside for.
Our three children were home educated for most of their schooling and the eldest two chose pathways that didn’t involve attending university.
We did send all three of them on a student exchange year during their Gap Year and although it cost us around $10,000 AU for each child, it was money well spent. They have learnt more of the world, made friends in different countries and came back with confidence, new language skills and great memories.
4) Do you have a car payment?
Yes, but we only took that out in the past couple of years to replace our 12 year old car and it is a business expense that I can deduct from my taxable income. Before that we only paid cash for our cars, usually good, solid, second hand vehicles and kept them for many years. It helped that my husband trained as a mechanic.
5) Are you house poor? What’s that mortgage/rent like?
Over the years we have paid off our mortgage, although we currently rent while we are renovating and that is costing us $400/week. We do have a lot of investment debt over our property portfolio but little personal debt.
6) How do you fund Christmas?
Our Christmas time has mainly involved travel. It is also the time when we traditionally bought things that the kids would have need of during the coming year. Apart from the travel component we have never made a special allowance for Christmas purchases.
7) Let’s talk home improvements?
This is currently our biggest expense. We have just about completed a major renovation of the old Queenslander home we have been living in, see www.andinmysparetime.com. While we are normally hands-on renovators this is one job we have handed over to the professionals and mainly project managed, it has been slightly more expensive but the result has been a high quality renovation. Currently the cost is sitting close to that of building a new home. Once completed we will move back in and commence building a new home on the vacant block created through the sub-division. The Queenslander will then become a rental property.
8) Do you save for school clothes?
One of the best things about home schooling / distance education was low fees and no school uniforms to worry about.
9) Do you deal with college debt?
I was fortunate to go through higher education at a time when it was free in Australia and could therefore start my working life debt free. I have undertaken some further study however have funded this personally as professional development through my business.
10) Is your emergency fund where it should be?
It was until we started the renovation.
11) Do you carry credit card debt?
I do use a credit card to level out the ups and downs of income and expenditure, however most of this is either business or property related expenses and the interest on this is tax deducible. I try to use cash where possible for all personal expenses.
12) How often do you eat out?
As I spend a lot of my time travelling for work I get to eat out often – as a business expense, by the time I get home I am hanging out for some home cooked vegetarian food and green smoothies. Outside of this though we rarely eat out, maybe once a month when I’m not travelling.
13) Do you mow your own lawn and clean your own house?
I have a husband. I always tell people I married him because he knew how to use a washing machine. He is the main house and yard cleaner, I’m the cook, it has been a great division of labour.
14) Name a Frugal Fail?
It’s an expensive one, ouch! We found out we needed to replace the old roofing on the Queenslander home which we hadn’t budgeted for. The builder came back with a quote of $14,000 for one of his contacts to do the job. I got a quote for a roofing company I had previously used for $12,000. Unfortunately I didn’t explain the job fully or read the contract properly and all the extras have added up to an extra $5000 on top of the base rate. Yep that was $3000 more than the builders quote and I’m still waiting for them to come back and fix some things.
15) Your Question: Do you get an allowance?
Yes, both my husband and I give ourselves a weekly allowance of $50. It’s a great feeling to know that I have some money that I can use freely and without worrying too much about being accountable. If I want to buy a coffee while I’m out or a plant for the garden I can use this and not feel guilty about taking it from the grocery allowance.
Thank you so much for sharing, Carrie! Carrie of And In My Spare Time is a consultant by day, travelling all over the Australian outback to support rural and remote aged and disability programs. In her spare time, she enjoys renovating and developing property.
How do YOU do that?! Inquiring minds want to know about the choices you make.
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