Frugal Retirement: Let’s Talk About “Limited Income”

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Frugal Retirement: Let’s Talk About “Limited Income”

Frugal Retirement: Let’s Talk About “Limited Income”The biggest adjustment my husband and I had to make after retirement was how to get used to living on a "limited" income.  We both had worked in Civil Service positions. 

He had been a Civil Engineer for our State's Department of Transportation and I had been an Executive Assistant in the Department of Corrections.  Both of us were used to receiving very nice paychecks twice monthly. 

Now, our limited income was only one paycheck each per month and the amount did not change until January of the next year.  We soon learned that the January increase was limited to 3 percent or less - if we were lucky and if the politicians felt generous.

I would like to share with you some of the things we have done to improve our limited income situation.  It has been a long journey and we have learned that to be successful in supplementing a limited income you need to change the way you think about money and everything around you

First, we began to look at ways we might supplement our limited incomes. 

My husband did some substitute teaching at our local high school as well as private engineering jobs on the side.  Neither of which generated anything close to his twice monthly before retirement paycheck.  Plus, these were not full-time positions, they were "hope we are home when the telephone rings" positions and sporadic at that.  

Then, one day, he made a great discovery.  He would supplement his income by doing odd jobs as a handy man. He loves woodworking, doing mechanic work, repairing things, and just puttering around.  He really didn't want a business, he just wanted to lend a hand to friends who didn't know how to fix things and before we knew it, the friends were referring him to other friends. 

Some of his projects include:

  • Building a playhouse for 2 spoiled cats
  • Reupholstering antique dining room chairs
  • Remodeling a kitchen
  • Auto mechanic work

He's making money and having fun and he continues to get calls.

I delved into teaching piano and presenting programs at ladies meetings. 

Again, like my husband, neither of these endeavors provided much in the way of significant income.  The poor economy and the even sadder job market made piano lessons a luxury rather than just another extra-curricular activity.  Being the entertainment at ladies' teas, lunches, etc., was a lot of fun but I soon found that the money I was making was much less than the fun I was having.  The free meals were great too. 

So, I decided to go "big time" and do some advertising to see what interest I might generate.  My limited income was even less now because I had to pay for the advertising but I did receive some calls and booked several functions.  Then, travel had to be considered because being in the "big time" meant you must leave the comfort zone of your home town. 

My husband said I just liked the free meals - which I thought was jealousy on his part.  Anyway, little by little, interest started to grow and I was booking at least one function each week.  With this catching on, I thought about doing parties for mom's who were too busy to take care of party details like sending invitations, planning entertainment and the menu. 

So, still in search of supplementing my limited income, I advertised and actually got some calls and booked some parties.  Children's parties started this new endeavor but soon I was venturing into adult functions as well.  I was starting to see a nice monthly supplement to my limited income and I was also enjoying what I was doing. 

These are just a few of the moonlighting opportunities we have discovered to add to our limited income and I will share more in future blogs.  

We continue to be creative and take advantage of every opportunity that might generate income. We don't overlook the small things because the pennies add up over time. 

I encourage you to look at some out-of-the-box options and use your talents and abilities to supplement your limited income.

The next in this series is all about being creative with long term investments.  Watch for it because it is not what you would think at all.

Related Posts:

Retirement...What Comes Next

Retirement...Your After-Work Life


Kimberly JohnsKimberly Johns

Kimberly has been on the CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP) for just under a year. Kimberly is very active in the Community Forums, some of you may recognize her Community user name; Tiquie. Recently retired, she is going to share how she and her husband manage the financial challenges of living on a fixed income. The John's have found some really creative and fun ways to offset the limitations of a retirement income, which Kimberly is generously planning to share in her new blog! Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • I can't believe that 2 reired civil servants don't have a combined pension large enough to live very nicely on.  Either you didn't work that many years or you retired too young.  In my estimate a retired cicil engineer and a retired ex. assistant in state corrections should have an income of about $110K.  If you can't live on that don't cry to us.

  • "hope we are home when the telephone rings"???  You are tied to a land line? Then you are not serious about wanting the work.

  • I too cannot believe 2 retired  public employees cannot live on their retirement.  There is two reason, they are still living on their old salary and they did not prepare for retirement.   When you plan on retiring, you should know exactly how much you will make and make all the necessary adjustments to your expenses to live within that income.   I highly advise those who plan on retiring, to live on an income you expect for at least two years.  If you cannot do it, don't retire and see what you need to do to make your retirement pay work for you.

  • This article does not tell you how to thrive on a limited income as the title suggests, but rather that you need to earn more income, which is not an option for many people.

  • Hi Jim Tagley - I assure you our income falls well short of $110K.  I know that the general public has the view that State employees make a huge salary. For the very top of the ladder, that might be true; but, for those of us who were not on that ladder, out salaries were and are not anything close.  In fact, Civil Engineers in private corporations make considerable more that the Civil Engineers working for State Government.  My salary as an executive assistant was also below those who were employed by private corporations; i.,e., State Farm, Country Companies, IBM  and the list goes one.  Why then did we take these civil service jobs?  Because we both lived in a rural area where there were no large employers.  In fact, the biggest employer in the area was the State.  So, we went, if you excuse the phrase, "where the money was" - working for the State.  For those of you living in metropolitan areas this may difficult to believe.  And, I am not crying to anyone - simply sharing how changing your attitude about making money to supplement your income can come from many different places - if you just start to think out of the box.  I suggest you go online and compare salaries of civil service employees vs those working in large corporations - it may be enlightening.

  • Dear Bagbalm   - No, we are not tied to a land line but do give that number out for use because we at least have an answering machine to take calls.  My husband wears hearing aids so he misses  a lot of his cell phone calls.  In fact, when I tell people that, I usually also ask them to keep trying.  Schools only call once because there is no lead time for them.  They fill vacancies for teachers who are calling in sick and that can't be planned ahead.  So, there are extenuating circumstances that I did not mention because I didn't feel I would be offending anyone.

  • Hi Thumper (any relation to the rabbit?) Hs-ha.  Well, we did plan for retirement and then I got into credit card trouble.  Do you have that problem?  Most likely, since you are enrolled with CareOne.  So, I am enrolled in the DMP but HE is not.  When you are used to living on 2 incomes, no matter what size, losing one does seem to cause some issues.  But, you sound as if you have everything under control so why are you in the program?

  • Hi Pugman, My article does share how to live on a limited income by supplementing that income.  We can supplement our incomes and, yes, that is earning more money.  Living on a limited income does allow you choices and we choose to live as frugally as possible (no new vehicles - we have never owned a brand  new vehicle; hardly eating out - we cook at home and we always put out a garden).  I could go on but I think my point to you is that your income is limited ONLY by you and your mindset.  I believe everyone has talents and skills they can put to use if they start to think about how.  You do have optionsd if you only put your mond to work.  We have a town festival every September that has been going on for about 40 years and has grown and grown.  On the weekend of the festival thousands of people flock to our small town.  Some of the vendors working at the festival say this is the only thing they do all year because they earn so much here.  They spend the better part of the year getting ready for the festival and working on watever it is they will bring to sell.  This is not any different from what we are trying to do.  If you don't want to supplement your income that is okay too - just don't put down other people bercause they have the initiative to try.

  • Thanks, Ms. Johns, for sharing your creative ideas, and using your can-do attitude when you might prefer to relax.  I'm younger, but inspired by a number of things in your article.  I suppose most all of your readers are at least a little depressed-- perhaps that explains some comments I've read.  Please carry on... and count mine as positive feedback.

  • Hi Steve  - Thanks for reading the blog and for your positive comments.  My husband and I both believe that your only limitation in any situation is how you view the situation.  That is what I was trying to get across.  Retired or not, none of us need to live on a limited income because there are things we can do to improve that situation.  Some may be small by comparison but pennies add up to dollars as I point out in my next blog.  If you liked this one be sure to read the next because I am sharing how aluminum cans can turn into profit.  It is all in the way you view the things around you.  Once again, thanks for understanding the gist of my blog!  I believe you are an "out of the box" thinker and nothing is impossible for you!

  • If you want to work after retirement, they may have good advice.  If you find enough to do around the house and personal projects, then their advice is not helpful.  Just streamline household items you buy and enjoy doing what you always wanted to do when working and couldn't.  But all the advice I hear is to get a part-time job.  Not me, I would make my own soup and take a nice long trip to a destination I have never visited.  To each his own of course, but these people who have to work all the time - give me a headache.  And I agree with Jim Tagley; if these people don't have enough money to retire on, what middleclass person does?!!

  • I'm sure this is going to sound like a silly question - but if you and your husband are both retired are you not both getting Social Security checks? I guess it's something that's concerned me in our situation as well.

  • I am an 86 year old widow. & retired Reg. Nurse.  My husband did  R.E.Appraisal/ fee work before he passed

    away five years ago.  I  HAVE to live on Social Security , does not increase much.  I was REALLY frightened when "they" said

    I may not receive my check, or Medicare health suppliment,  if Obama Care went through. THOSE checks are ALL  I

    have to live on!!  We survived from month to month, and were not able to save  money , while raising our five children.

    Thankfully, my home is paid for,  but the monthly utility bills, insurances, and groceries keep going up. I  rarely buy any new clothes, and

    go to the movie about once a month.

    Being the mother of five , grown children , I have ALWAYS lived frugally!  I don't like the idea

    of living in a retirement community and CERTAINLY would not think of going on WELFARE unless there was

    no other possible avenue.  I  save a bit each  month to pay for my R E taxes. My car is  22 years old and I hope it lasts my lifetime !

     You  CAN learn to live on what I  believe GOD has provided for in the "golden"

    years, but it "ain't" easy !  There are odd jobs,  thrift shops, and discount stores to help,

    Volunteer for church/community projects because helping others is always nice.  God Bless you all, and keep

    plugging on!!!!

  • Hi Mary - And thanks for your question.  My husband does receive Social Security but I am not old enough yet.  I was able to retire at age 55 due to our State being in financial trouble.  Early retirement buyouts were offered to people who met certain qualifications and I was one of those people so I retired early.  I find it interesting that so many people seem to be upset that we are looking for ways to supplement our income.  In today's economy, everyone is struggling to meet their financial responsibilities.  Why not use your skills and talents to add to your limited retirement income?  It is more beneficial to focus on positive things that can be done to improve our situations than to sit around and complain because you are broke and barely able to make ends meet.

  • Retirement is what you make of it.  The one thing every retiree needs is something meaningful to do.  For some that something is another occupation to give meaning to existence, even if they don't really need the money. For others it is traveling around, or visiting grandchildren, or getting involved in charity or nonprofit organizations, or even getting involved in politics and maybe running for office.  I decided to  extend my education with another masters degree and then a PhD.  I actually enjoy graduate school and learning new things.  Oh, I don't generally use my advanced degrees, It was just fun getting them.  I also took a machine shop course, and some economic courses at the local community collage.  

    i retired early at age 53 from the federal service on 30% of my gross. I had a good posution, and traveled the world at the government's expense.  Personal circumstances, however, demanded a change in life and location.  Retiring so early was doable, but required adjusting my lifestyle.  Some very expensive habits were shed, like life insurance, which is totally unnecessary once your children are grown.  Moving out of a cold climate to a southern state (Texas) with a much cheaper cost of living reduced expenses more.  Buying a new car every three years was also tossed. A good car, regularly maintained and taken care of can last the rest of your life.  Same with a motorcycle or bicycle.  My motorcycle is over twenty year old now, but regular maintenance keeps it a reliable means of transportation.  

    I also looked into working in another industry, but decided I did NOT want to work at all.  I am also a licensed civil engineer, and I do take occasional very short jobs (a few hours of effort) like issuing an engineer letter.  But i don't look for the work, and have refused some. They pay well ($350 for a couple hours work) but in a year they are so infrequent that it doesn't really matter.  It also cost too much to advertise, maintain an office, and the expense of subscribing to current building codes is too much for the limited income it produces.  It is probably very enjoyable for some retirees, especially those already associated with a private practice firm.  But it was not for me.

    For seven years of my retirement I moved out of the US to the Philippines, where one could easily live well on half my retirement annuity.  I found a very pretty young Filipina girl half my age and married her.  Now we have two lovely children to raise, and she and the children are now my hobby - that gave me a new, exciting lease on life.  The PhD I got shortly after retiring brought me an offer with a local Filipino university to teach graduate engineering courses, and started me off with the rank of professor.  Teaching didn't pay much - about $100 a month, which barely covered my visual aids expenses.  But it was immensely rewarding.

    Now I live back in Texas, with my young trophy wife and two daughters.  Life is still good.  There is something about strolling around with a trophy wife that is immensely satisfying.  The only thing better is making love to her.  We are not rich, but we are not poor either.  The point of this story is this -- life is what you make of it, working or retired.  Circumstances often come our way that we weren't expecting.  Sometimes they work out really well.  Sometimes they don't.  When they don't, don't stew in your own juices -- make a change in your life and move on to the next opportunity.

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