Whether you’ve done it the “right way” by tucking away 15% of your career earnings or you’re relying on social security for a large part of your income, retirement most likely requires you to live on a strict budget.

With Retirement Journals, we want to get a sense of what goes into that budget—from everyday expenses like groceries or a cup of coffee to small splurges like gifts for the grandkids or a fancy dinner.

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This week’s contributor

This week, Debbie takes us through a typical week during her retirement. She is a 64-year old retiree who lives with her second husband in the home they own together. After retiring at 62, she wanted to make sure she could be involved in her grandchildren’s lives, so she and her husband moved two hours to be closer to them.

Despite the new location, Debbie loves being able to make all their events and be there in case her son and daughter-in-law need a babysitter. When she is not watching over her grandkids, she enjoys gardening, photography, and experiencing what Mother Nature has to offer.

Going mortgage-free

“Our goal was to be mortgage-free in retirement and the only large loan we have is a home equity loan on the house to redo the master bath and the kitchen.

“We owe about $45,000 and have 5 years to pay. Right now the interest is at 4.99%. We try to pay $2,000 a month but it is sometimes a bit less.”


I said goodbye to my husband as he headed out to work and then took water samples from our home for yearly testing.

We have well water and it should be tested once a year. I then took the samples to town hall and went to the gym and my aquatics class.

After class I did grocery shopping, ran to the post office and then did chores at home.

I retired at 62, 2 1/2 years ago, and one of my retirement goals was to work out more. That has proved to be a challenge due to some past injuries and water exercise provides the workout without the risk of further injury so I joined the Y almost a year ago even though it would be an added expense.

When I retired we moved 2 hours away from my home and friends of many decades. It was hard to lose that strong support group and even though we said we’d all visit it has happened rarely.

Fortunately my best friend and I still talk on the phone every day and make time for visits. I don’t know what I’d do without her!

My husband and I married 7 years ago and it is a second marriage for both of us. He is 13 1/2 years younger so he still has years of work ahead of him. This is sometimes hard since we love to hike and explore together and his time off is limited.

We love the area we live in and the fact that we are only 20 minutes from the grandchildren instead of 2 hours. We live in a rural area so there are no neighbors close by and the house has been a financial drain on us.

I have made a few friends through the gym and feel very fortunate to be able to help out with the grandchildren and go to their school events. I know how fast these years go and didn’t want to miss out on spending time with them.

Monday’s Expenses

  • Groceries: $200
  • Postage: $7


Today there were spring concert programs at two of the three grandchildren’s school. The kindergartner’s class was first and then the second grader’s class.

It was a very special day and I was so happy to be there with my son and daughter-in-law. The kids were thrilled to see us cheering them on.

I spent a few hours taking nature pictures afterwards. We have a small nature photography business on line and we sell our cards in 4 local shops. My husband does all the hard computer work and accounting, I get to take pictures and visit the shops!

Late in the afternoon I went back to the kid’s house to watch the grandsons while my daughter-in-law was at Girl Scouts with my granddaughter. These days are what I hoped my retirement would be about, spending time with those I love.

Tuesday’s Expenses

  • Gas for car: $25


Today I went to the Gym for my aquatics class and afterwards went out for a morning of nature photography with a friend. We were very excited to see a Bald Eagle!

This afternoon was quiet with housework and computer work. I ordered a bathing suit on line for my aquatics class since the price fell to 40% off. I knew this because I had placed a watch on the price for a drop.

I order chlorine resistant suits so that they last longer but they can be expensive so it pays to be patient and wait until the price drops.

Wednesday’s Expenses

  • Bathing Suit: $40


Today began with a trip to the youngest grandson’s nursery school for the end of the year program. It was adorable!

I returned home to do laundry, photo processing and researching air fare for a possible trip across the country to visit family.

My husband and I discussed things we would like to do around the house when we can financially swing it. We need dead and dying trees removed, a fence to keep the deer out since they keep eating plant material and it is costly to replace, and removing and repairing the back deck and water damage to the wood.

Sometimes I wonder if I should return to work part-time but our taxes would take a big bite of a starting salary and I wouldn’t be able to be with the grandchildren when I am asked.


Today I headed out early for a photo shoot at a nearby National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful day and I spent the morning taking pictures of birds, dragonflies and flowers.

I edited the photos in the afternoon and did household chores and a little weeding of the garden. The grand kids are away on vacation so it will be a quiet weekend.

Friday’s Expenses

  • Coffee: $5
  • Sandwich for lunch: $4


This morning I worked on creating personalized photo birthday cards for the grandsons who have birthdays coming up.

They are fun to do but very time consuming and there was a coupon for free cards this weekend so I wanted to take advantage of the savings. I find I now have the time to take advantage of coupons, specials and sales since there is no time spent in the office.

My husband had to work a 1/2 day and afterwards we headed out to see his Dad who is having some health issues.

His Dad has dementia and other issues and his balance is getting progressively worse. He is scheduled for an MRI of the brain to try and get some answers. It is very sad and worrisome.

We stopped for ice cream on the way home at one of our favorite spots.

Saturday’s Expenses

  • Birthday cards: $6
  • Coffee and sandwich: $11
  • Ice cream: $10


Today was a day off for my husband so we headed out to hike and visit a native plant nursery. Native plants are our passion and my husband is in the horticulture business so this is always fun.

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He found some great plants and then we hiked the grounds. We saw a snake catch a frog and I’m pretty sure I caught it on the camera clearly!

We stopped at the local farm stand to buy produce and then spent the afternoon doing household chores both inside and out.

Sunday’s Expenses

  • Native plants for the garden: $125
  • Produce from farm stand: $17