Christmas Gift Hacking

A lot of folks in the FIRE community have talked about how they work hard to keep it a frugal holiday season – either cutting down amounts given, reducing gifts, or just eliminating them altogether. It’s a difficult task in this world of rampant consumerism, especially with kids.

 At the same time, many of us have hobbies that we greatly enjoy (otherwise we would go nuts now that we are financially independent retirees, or on the cusp). For those working on FIRE, hobbies are one of the things we seek out, knowing we will need to find ways to keep ourselves occupied once we retire – after we have spent the first 24 months doing all the travel and other activities we dreamed of doing.

 So one of the Christmas hacks you can do is to use your hobby to make gifts for folks. They don’t have to be extravagant (most people as they age don’t want a lot of extravagant gifts, because then they’ll feel they have to respond in kind). We have a friend who is an artist, so she does hand painted Christmas cards – which most of us end up framing and using in the house. My brother is an accomplished photographer (he did it for newspapers and for his business’ marketing efforts), and one of his gifts is to get photos together of the family over the past year and create a calendar for each of us with photos.

 Me, I’m an amateur woodworker. The woodworking websites and magazines are full, come around September, with easy gift ideas, and I’ve mined them for the last several years for ideas. Instead of spending $100s on family, I find that with $50 of materials I can create some nice stuff, and people appreciate the hand-made gifts more. This year, its oriental themed, desk frames for photographs. There are two-sided, so each frame shows two pictures. They are held in place with small dowels (the tops come off) so the photos can be replaced if necessary.

 

It’s a great chance to do something for those you love, which is personal, and I think more appreciated than something you just get off the shelf.

 What have you guys made for friends and family for Christmas?

 

Mr. 39 Months

 

Christmas Presents?

Many of us have skills and talents that we take for granted, hobbies that we have that bring us joy, just for the sake of doing. Mrs. 39 Months likes to knit and play the dulcimer. My younger brother has a CCR (computer controlled router) that lets him carve all sorts of things he can design on his computer. My older brother is an accomplished photographer, with an incredible gift to get beautiful pictures with limited, inexpensive equipment.

At a certain point in our lives, we stop needing “things” from other people, and its more the “thought that counts” when we are getting gifts. Often the gifts just sit there, unused, but we do remember that someone thought of us at the time. In that case, why not use your talent or interest to create a gift, instead of contributing to the consumer treadmill? It will save you money, and show folks you were willing to spend more than 5 minutes on them.

For me, I am an amateur woodworker, and I found a nice design for something small, but useful. I also had some old wood that has been sitting in the shop for several years, in the form of logs (my friend had a tree cut down, sawed up, and when he moved, he gave them to me).

So now I get to joint & plane the wood, cut it to size, create the joinery and complete the design. I should be able to get 8-10 presents out of this, which should satisfy us for most of the crew this year. It should take me about 4 weeks of off-and-on work to complete, so I have gotten started.

What do you guys do for presents? Anybody doing something really interesting this year that you would like to share?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Thinking about starting a You tube channel? Think Save Retire has a good post on it

Think Save Retire has an excellent post on what you need to start a YouTube Channel. It goes over how to set up, equipment, and content.

Want to start a YouTube channel? Here’s what you need to get started

 

He goes through all the equipment, the setup and the processes.

I’ve often thought about setting up a YouTube channel for financial advice to recent graduates. Not sure  how successful it would be, but it would be fun.

 

Mr. 39 months

You’ve got to have hobbies – part 3

Sorry for me not posting over the weekend. I was out again, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, this time in Connecticut.

As I’ve said before, I belong to a club that does outdoor events (kayaking, biking, etc.) and a group of seven of us went over the weekend to backpack the AT. It was a total of 12.5 miles (6.5 miles on Sat, 6 on Sun) with a stay at the shelter.

I really love taking these trips to the outdoors, and I look forward to the opportunity, once I hit my FI goal, to do more of this.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Mr.39 Months

You’ve got to have hobbies 2

Sorry for the lack of postings, but I’ve spent the last week backpacking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. In seven days, a group of six of us hiked 69 miles southbound on the AT. The group had a wide variety of ages and experience – from 31 to 61, from only having hiked before (no backpacking) to 14+ years of backpacking experience.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with the AT, it was originally created back in the 1920s and 1930s as a series of trails and small wooden 3-sided shelters (capable of holding 7-14 people) for people to be able to use on the weekends to get away to nature, get to the outdoors. Shortly after it was created, someone came up with the idea of hiking the series of trails in some connected fashion, and thus was born the idea of “through hiking” the AT.

 

The AT stretches from Georgia to Maine, running along the Appalachian Mountain chain for over 2,100 miles. Backpacking its length has become a sort of “rite of passage” for some people, where folks who are facing significant changes in their life (graduations from school, going out into the work world, retirement, job loss, death of a spouse or loved one, etc.) go to travel alone and experience nature. Many folks have called it “America’s Camino”.

 

Another way to through hike it, which I’ve chosen, is to section hike it, where you hike portions of the trail on the weekends and for weeks at a time, over a period of time. I’ve spent the last 14 years doing parts of the trail, and have racked up almost 800 miles so far. It’s a good way to experience the trail, without committing to the 4-6 months that it would take to through hike it.

 

I’ve said before that you have to have something to do (hobbies, part-time work, volunteer work, etc.) to keep yourself occupied once you “retire” or you will go nuts with boredom. I have woodworking, backpacking and some other interests. Whatever you want to spend time on, go for it. It’s one of the primary reasons to become financially independent – to get your time back.

 

Have fun out there.

 

Mr. 39 months

 

More on hobbies

 

I had the opportunity last week to travel to Pittsboro NC and take a woodworking class at the Woodwright’s School . Many folks may remember Roy Underhill as that manic woodworker who uses only the tools from the 18th and 19th century to make wonderful pieces of furniture and household items. I have several of his books, and took a class with him back in 2015 that was fantastic.

This class was taught by Roy’s peer and fellow woodworker, Bill Anderson. It covered how to make a wooden molding plane from scratch. Wooden molding planes used to be the way you would make intricate moldings in wood (coves, ovalos, etc.) for furniture and homes. Until the powered routers and shapers came along, these tools were prized elements of a woodworker’s kit.

The classroom is very nice, with ten workbenches, and plenty of room to operate. There is hardly any powered machinery (tablesaws, planers, etc.) – it is all hand powered work (there are a few grinders in back for sharpening). Each workbench has a basic set of tools, and some specialty tools for that specific class.

For molding planes, you take a piece of birch or beech wood, about 2in x 10in, that is set up to be very stable. You then cut in the profile you want on the bottom, create a mortise and slot for the iron and wedge that hold it in place, then create the iron (annealing it with heat, initial sharpening, then heat treating to finalize). There is an awful lot of tweaking which takes place to get the plane operating smoothly.

I find classes like this to be very rejuvenating, as you get to work with your hands – something lacking for a lot of us in today’s world. It’s great that folks with decades of knowledge are willing and able to pass their knowledge down. In some of the classes I’ve been to, there have been young folks in their early 20’s who are looking to make this a way of life. I’m sure the instructors love the fact that their knowledge will be passed down.

Whatever your hobby is, I hope you take the time to take some classes in it, to enhance your abilities and help teachers who are passing down the knowledge.

 

Again, I’d ask what hobbies are you currently taking part in, or are planning to take on in the years ahead as you prepare for Financial Independence?

You’ve got to have hobbies

 

One of the things they will always tell you about retirement is that you have to have hobbies or other interests in order to keep you from going batty once you gain your freedom. There are numerous stories of people retiring, and passing on a couple of years later, because their purpose in life has ended. I myself had a father-in-law who passed away 2 years after retirement.

For me, I have two primary hobbies (other than this blog) – backpacking the Appalachian Trail, and woodworking.

Backpacking the AT: When I was 38 years old, I was visiting my mother in East Tennessee. We took the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains National Park, and there I saw a large map (48” x 12”) which shows the entire length of the AT from Georgia to Maine. I had enjoyed backpacking in my youth, but had stopped when I joined the army. For some reason, I decided right there that I would seek out to hike the entire 2,100 mile length over the next 10-15 years.

Well, its been about 15 years, and I’ve only been able to get 716 miles done so far (about 1/3). Primarily that is because life and work continues to get in the way. I’ve been able to get it done from Shenandoah park to Connecticut (and some other states) but I still have a lot to do. I’ve currently got about 100 miles scheduled for 2017, so that should push me a little over 800 miles.

This weekend, I was able to hike it with a bunch of friends, and we did about 12 miles, even though it rained a great deal on Saturday. Its great to get out, talk with other folks from the world hiking, and just get the exercise.

The other primary hobby I have is woodworking, specifically the making of furniture by hand. I’ve managed to accumulate a full set of power tools (tablesaw, jointer, planer, drill press, bandsaw, etc.) and an excellent collection of hand tools – which I’m starting to use more and more. I will try and share some of these in the future as well.

What hobbies are you currently taking part in, or are planning to take on in the years ahead as you prepare for Financial Independence?