“Cut your coat…”

‘Cut your coat according to your cloth’, or ‘Making ends meet’ is another, similar, old expression not often heard these days. ‘Balancing the budget’, ‘Paying your way’, or ‘Having enough to get by’…they all mean much the same to most of us. And yes, I confess – I live frugally but not meanly, I hope. At this stage of life, I don’t have many wants, and my needs are well covered by the Age pension and a small annuity from my super fund built up over my 60 years of working life. Dorothy’s accommodation is almost covered by her Age pension and a small annuity, but sometimes unexpected extra non-PBS medications pop up and can add some unbudgeted costs.

I am still able to drive, and it is my preferred way to do the shopping, go to church and visit Dorothy. Recently, just to see if I could do it, I walked to her care home but, at more than 7Km return up and down the hills, it was not something I would do by choice again! I usually ride my electric bike, weather permitting, to visit Dorothy but I realise the bike trails and particularly the roads are not a good place for an old ‘wobbly wider’ and I know that sometime, down the track as they say, first the bike and then the car will need to be surrendered.

The total costs of living here are only marginally more than if I lived outside this very comfortable retirement village. In return, I have secure and very pleasant surroundings and wonderful neighbours, a car and a little bit available to save or use for any extras. I am well blessed and, if I continue to live frugally, there might even be enough set aside to enjoy a little holiday sometime in the future. But I need to be mindful that, unexpectedly and at any time, there could be the need for extra medical costs, for either or both of us, which could quickly gobble up any little accumulation!

You might wonder why I don’t have a nice fat ‘nest egg’ at this stage of my life. Well, we did have, but that went to pay the ingoing Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) for my Dorothy’s care. We were $200,000 short, so the care home effectively ‘lends’ us that amount, then deducts the 5.96% interest charge out of the RAD and, although I wince at the $1,100 (approx.) withdrawn from the RAD each month, I am pleased to know that Dorothy is well cared for in a superb environment (thanks, BlueCross).

I thank God, too, for my health. Like many, I do have some as yet minor age-related usual ‘complaints’: shoulders, back, knees, and depleted energy reserves! But I try to keep active, walking, cycling, eating fruit and good pre-prepared meals, and sleeping! What more can a bloke do? When the current restrictions are lifted I will be able to visit our children occasionally for a meal and a chat but meanwhile I receive encouraging phone calls from them and our friends and then, as always, I thank God yet again for His incredible grace to an old bloke like me!

Living within your means’ is certainly difficult for many if you don’t have the ‘means’! Nevertheless, those old maxims resonate for me and many other elders in these difficult days. It was drummed into us when we were young to develop saving habits and to be careful with money. They are habits which have, for many of us, persisted and now sustain us in our declining years.

But such platitudes do not change reality. It’s all too easy for me to say, “save when you can – and live sensibly and frugally when you can’t”. The trick is being able to save and, when life can be tough during these ‘coronavirus times’ it’s not going to happen for lots of people. My heart goes out to those who are unloved, unwell, unhoused, unfed, unemployed and struggling, especially those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

All I can do is pray, as I ‘tailor my coat according to the cloth’, that together we will all be strengthened to live through these troubled times with love and compassion and look forward to brighter, different, times in our lucky country.